If your marriage is less than two years old when you receive your green card, you will be given “conditional resident status.” USCIS tries to root out fraudulent marriages, or marriages entered into for the sole purpose of obtaining green cards and permanent resident status in the United States.
Because of this, USCIS requires you to prove that your marriage is legitimate before it will remove the conditions on your permanent resident status.
How Long Will My Adjustment of Status be Conditional?
Once lawfully admitted to the United States, you will apply to adjust status to permanent residency. Again, if you have been married for less than two years, you will only be granted conditional residency. You can apply to remove your conditional status up to 90 days before the expiration date on your green card.
There’s nothing magic about immigration applications, and the criteria to remove conditional residency are listed at uscis.gov. You are eligible to remove your conditional green card status and seek permanent residency if you:
- “Are still married to the same U.S. citizen or permanent resident after 2 years.”
- “Are a widow or widower who entered into your marriage in good faith.”
- “Entered into a marriage in good faith, but the marriage ended through divorce or annulment.”
- “Entered into a marriage in good faith, but either you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by your permanent-resident spouse.”
The key in removing your conditional status and seeking the status of a permanent resident is primarily based off of the “good faith” basis for the relationship of you and your spouse.
As long as you were originally married in good faith, meaning that you were actually in love and you didn’t get married for the sole purpose of providing your immigrant spouse U.S. immigration benefits, then all you have left to do is prove it.
How Do I Remove My Conditional Green Card Status?
To start, you apply by filing form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
The form itself is fairly straightforward, though it’s not uncommon to have questions about how to fill it out properly. If you do find that you are having questions, contact an immigration attorney.
Along with form I-751 you’ll need to send evidence showing that your relationship over the last two years was legitimate.
You should generally include birth certificates of children born in the marriage, rental agreements with names of both spouses, evidence of commingling of financial assets, religious documents that prove your commitment to each other, affidavits of friends and family that know you both well, or virtually any other document that demonstrates you married in good faith and maintained a legitimate relationship over the past two years.
What if My Spouse or Former Spouse isn’t Willing to Sign My I-751 Application?
If it is not possible for you and your partner to apply together for the removal of your conditional residency, you are allowed to file the I-751 form on your own. However, if you file on your own you will need to file a waiver of the requirement to file form I-751 jointly.
In the immigration context, waivers can sometimes be difficult to obtain. While we recommend you discuss with a lawyer if you require any form of waiver, a waiver of the requirement to file form I-751 jointly should include documentation that you married in good faith in addition to documentation of hardship and/or abuse.
For more information regarding a waiver of the joint filing requirement you can view the instructions for form I-751 at uscis.gov.
What if my Conditional Residency Has Already Expired?
If you do not remove the conditions prior to the expiration of your conditional green card, you will lose your status as a permanent resident of the United States.
With the revocation of your conditional status, you may be subject to removal from the country. It is important that you stay aware of the expiration date on your green card and remember to apply for the removal of your conditions within 90 days prior to the expiration date.
Form I-751 may be filed after your conditional residency has expired provided that you can show “good cause” for failing to submit the application on time. You need to provide an explanation for your tardiness in writing and you should direct your letter to the Director of your USCIS Service Center. The Director has the discretion to allow you to apply to remove conditions on your residency or deny your request.
If you don’t submit your application to remove the conditions on your residency in time, removal proceedings will be initiated against you. This means that you will likely have to appear in Immigration Court and explain to an immigration judge why you should not be deported.
It is very important that you file to remove the conditions of your permanent residency before your residency expires. Pay close attention to the expiration of your conditional green card and be sure to file before the deadline to avoid any problems.
In addition to submitting form I-751, USCIS may request an interview before they remove the conditions of your permanent residency. If this is the case, USCIS will contact you, letting you know when and where to show up. Be sure to take a copy of your I-751 application with you to the interview so that you can make sure all of the information you provide in the interview is consistent with your application.
If an interview is necessary you may want to seek legal advice. The attorney will have no control over the questions asked, but they will be able to help you prepare for the interview.
What If My Application Is Denied?
If your I-751 application is denied, you will be notified via mail. The letter will state the reasons for USCIS’s decision to deny your application.
Because you will no longer be in the United States in lawful status, you will be placed in removal proceedings. This means that you will have a hearing before an immigration judge. An Immigration judge will review the reasons for the denial of your application, and the judge may either enforce the decision, or reverse the decision and reinforce your permanent residency status.
At this stage it is highly recommended that you obtain an attorney to represent you. An experienced immigration attorney will be familiar with immigration court processes and will know how best to help you with the review of your I-751 application and any subsequent appeal.
However, as long as you file to remove the conditions on your residency within the proper timelines, and provide enough evidence to demonstrate your marriage is legitimate, the potential denial of your application shouldn’t worry you.