Falling in love with and marrying a US citizen doesn't automatically make you a naturalized citizen, but it does put you on that path if you so choose. There are several steps in the process and it will take several years to complete. The following can help answer your questions about the naturalization process.
Will marriage automatically make you eligible for citizenship?
Not directly. Marrying a US citizen makes you eligible for green card status. To become a naturalized citizen, you will have to be a green card holder for a certain amount of time in order to qualify.
What benefits does the green card afford?
A green card means that you are a lawful permanent resident and afforded many of the rights of a citizen, although not all. You will be able to work, live permanently in the US as long as you follow the law, and have the right to reentry into the country if you leave temporarily. You will also be able to apply for financial aid for education, as well as to take advantage of government sponsored health and welfare programs, including social security payments when you retire.
Do you have to become a citizen?
Just because you are married to a US citizen doesn't mean you have to become a citizen. You can choose to remain a citizen of your home country and just retain your green card status if desired.
Will your status affect that of your children?
Your children will be citizens since your spouse is a citizen, regardless of your status. You can petition for permanent resident status for non-citizen children from a previous relationship.
What is the process for becoming a citizen?
You will need to fill out an application and provide copies of the necessary documents to backup your request. These may include:
Proof of your spouse's citizenship status, such as naturalization paperwork or their birth certificate.
Proof your identity, including your birth certificate and passport.
Your marriage certificate.
A copy of your green card.
Tax returns and employment verification.
You will also have to provide proof that your marriage is legitimate. This will include documentation from the wedding itself, such as photographs, proof that you are both residing in the same home, and any other documentation to show that you are truly married.
There will likely be an interview between the immigration officials and your spouse to further verify that marriage fraud isn't being committed. It's a good idea to contact an immigration attorney in your area for help with the process. You can find an immigration attorney at a firm like Tesoroni & Leroy.