If you are a foreign national and you marry a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident (LPR), you become eligible for a visa based on that marriage. For the spouses of LPRs, the visa may not be available for several years. But for the spouses of American citizens, the visa is immediately available.
If you marry the U.S. citizen in a country other than America, you have two choices for claiming your Green Card. (See our page on the Adjustment of Status process if you are currently in the United States).
One choice is the K-3 Visa. This allows you to enter the United States while you wait for your Green Card to be processed. Because this visa allows you to wait in the United States while your residency is completed, it is very popular; as a result the wait for this type of visa to be processed can take longer than simply applying for your residency. Contact our immigration law firm in San Francisco for advice on which process would be faster for your country of origin.
The other option is to complete Consular Processing. This involves going to a U.S. consulate in your country of origin and applying for an immigrant visa based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen. This process requires you to wait in your country of origin for examinations and interviews while the application is processed, but once you are finished you are already a resident. Contact an experienced immigration attorney for details.