Many people wrongfully believe if they marry a U.S. citizen, it gives them automatic rights to live in the country. Some people think it automatically makes them U.S. citizens.
According to the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Japan, you cannot become an immediate citizen of the U.S. by marrying a citizen. Marriage is not an automatic right to live in or travel to the country. You must still go through the normal immigration process.
If you come to the U.S. without the proper documentation, you can and likely will end up in trouble with immigration authorities and face deportation. You will need to secure the proper visa and then seek a path to become a lawful permanent resident or citizen.
In some cases, you may receive conditional resident status. You must resolve this prior to your second anniversary by filing a petition with immigration authorities.
Be aware the U.S. will not recognize a common-law marriage when it comes to immigration. You must have a full and legal marriage to qualify for any special handling based on your status of marriage to a U.S. citizen.
There are benefits to marrying a U.S. citizen. You will often get priority and have a faster path to becoming a legal permanent resident or citizen. You will only have to wait to apply for citizenship for three years after your marriage.
You also will qualify for an immediate relative visa. You may also be able to get a fiancé visa prior to your marriage, which will allow you entry into the country for 90 days prior to your marriage, but you must marry before the 90 days is up.
The misunderstanding that marriage automatically allows you to live as a U.S. citizen is not true. In the past, authorities may have been more relaxed about deporting individuals who were in a marriage with a U.S. citizen, but it has never been legal to live in the U.S. without the proper documentation.