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Conditional Residence Through Marriage

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Conditional Residence Through Marriage

Conditional Residency: Making Your Green Card Permanent

Most green cards last a decade and can be renewed indefinitely. But if you and your spouse had been married less than two years at the time that you obtained permanent residency through marriage, it might come as a shock to you that your green card is only valid for two years (it’s important to note that a conditional permanent resident has the same rights and privileges as a permanent resident).

But that’s no cause for concern.

Your status is conditional until you prove, after a specified period of time, that you did not enter the marriage to bypass the immigration laws of the United States. To remove conditions in order to receive a permanent green card, you must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence in the 90-day period immediately prior to the expiry of your conditional residency.

You cannot file Form I-90 to renew your Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) if you are a conditional permanent resident. Entrepreneurs who obtained a conditional green card through investment would need to file a different form, called the I-829.

About Form l-751?

Form I-751 (officially called the “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”) is the application you’ll file in order to upgrade a 2-year conditional green card to a full 10-year green card. This process is called the “removal of conditions” on the marriage-based green card and it’s an important step on your journey to becoming a US citizen.

Conditional (or “CR-1”) green cards are given to those who have been married for under 2 years when they obtain permanent residence through marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder.

The information provided on Form I-751 is used by USCIS to determine whether the applicant’s marriage is valid and was entered in good faith (not for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card). Since you’ve already been married two years, the USCIS expects that you’ll have new photos together, new joint financial documentation, and perhaps even children. You should include the same types of evidence that you included with your original green card application, but it should all be new.

If your marriage is over, you can still apply to remove the conditions on your green card, but you’ll need to explain and provide evidence to show that your marriage was genuine.

What Happens If I Fail To Remove The Conditions?

If you don’t remove the conditions on your permanent residency, you will be “out of status” as soon as your conditional green card expires. Your conditional permanent residence status will be immediately terminated and deportation proceedings will be brought against you.

You can expect:

  • A notice telling you that you have failed to remove the conditions; and
  • A notice to Appear at a hearing. At the hearing, you may review and rebut the evidence against you. You are responsible for proving that you complied with the requirements (the government is not responsible for proving that you did not comply with the requirements).

When To File:

Time is of the essence!

You must file your Form I-751 during the 90-day period immediately before your conditional residence ends if you are filing Form I-751 jointly with your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. Your application will be returned if it’s filed too early, or denied if it’s filed late—and if you can’t show any extenuating circumstances to explain why the application is late.

The expiration date on your Green Card is also the date of your second anniversary as a conditional permanent resident. If you do not apply to remove the conditions in time, you face the loss of your conditional permanent residency and deportation.

If you file your Form I-751 after the 90-day period, a written explanation as to why you are filing late must be included. The USCIS will decide whether there was good enough cause to excuse your failure to file on time.

Use the USCIS’S handy filing calculator to determine your filing date.

What If We’re No Longer Married?

If you’re now divorced, you can still apply to remove the conditions on your CR1 visa and get a permanent resident card, but you will need to include a request for a waiver of the requirement that your spouse file the form with you. However, you will still need to prove that the marriage was entered into in good faith and not for immigration purposes.

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to include valid evidence that the U.S. citizen or green card holder who sponsored your marriage-based green card application was responsible for the end of the marriage, and/or that he or she was the one who requested the divorce. Any attempts that were made to save the marriage, like therapy/counselling will go a long way towards bolstering your credibility.

If your marriage ended in divorce before you could file Form I-751, you can submit it at any time before you are deported from the United States—you don’t need to wait for the 90-day window before your conditional permanent residency expires. A copy of your final divorce decree must be included alongside your application.

What If My Spouse Dies?

If your spouse dies prior to the removal of your conditional permanent residency, you must file Form I-751 alongside a copy of your spouse’s death certificate and evidence of your life together.

In this circumstance, you can file your Form I-751 any time between when your spouse dies and when your green card expires—you needn’t for the 90-day window before your conditional permanent residency expires.

What If My Spouse Was Abusive?

If your spouse was abusive, you can apply to have the conditions on your permanent residency removed without their assistance. You should include proof of the abuse, such as restraining orders, affidavits from domestic violence shelters, photographs and/or medical reports detailing injuries as a result of the abuse, or other evidence. If you have divorced, you should include a copy of your final divorce decree.

Your Next Steps:

Following the filing of Form I-751, you can expect to receive a notice in the mail confirming that your Form I-751 has been received. This receipt, also called a Form I-797, can be presented along with your existing green card will serve to prolong its validity for up to 18 months beyond the original expiration date. Whenever you need to prove your U.S. residence, you must show both your green card and the receipt.

The processing times for I-751 is ever-changing, and dependent upon the USCIS office processing your application. Be sure to check the USCIS website for current wait times. Sometimes the wait can be more than 3 years! Your green card will automatically remain valid until your I-751 petition is decided.

The ezimmigrationhelp DIY Removal of Conditions toolkit can help guide you through the process or you can ask us about our affordable immigration attorney  form preparation services

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