If you received a conditional green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen, you may have questions about how to get your 10-year green card. We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions related to preparing and filing Form I-751 to remove conditions on a green card.
CitizenPath’s online software helps conditional residents prepare Form I-751 with guaranteed results. Based on our experience, we wanted to share some of the most common questions related to the removal of conditions and filing the I-751 petition.
What is a conditional green card, and why is it only good for two years?
When you obtain a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, your resident status is valid for two years. The conditional green card expires after two years. You have all the same rights and privileges of a lawful permanent resident, but there’s one more step to make it permanent.
The conditional residency is like a probation period. During the two years, you and your spouse build a record of your married relationship together. At the end of the period, you will file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Additionally, you’ll need to include supporting documents as evidence of the bona fide marriage.
The conditional two-year period is in place to help prevent marriage fraud. Therefore, couples should take the filing process very seriously as it’s more than just filing a form. The couple must prove their good faith marriage. Upon approval of the I-751 petition, the permanent resident (along with any children that filed on the same petition) will become lawful permanent residents with 10-year green cards.
RECOMMENDED: 33 Great Documents for Proving a Bona Fide Marriage on an I-751 Petition
When can I file Form I-751 to remove conditions on my green card?
As a conditional resident, your green card is valid for two years. Generally, you and your spouse must file Form I-751 to remove the conditions on the green card in the 90-day period before your green card expires. It’s a joint petition — so both spouses file Form I-751. (There is a waiver for certain individuals who cannot file jointly.)
Some people get confused when USCIS refers to a “two-year anniversary.” The anniversary refers to your permanent resident status, not your marriage. Review the front of your green card and locate the expiration date. You can file Form I-751 any time in the 90 days that precedes the expiration date.
What happens if I do not file Form I-751 within 90 days of my green card expiration date?
If Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, is not filed before your green card expires, you can automatically lose your resident status. Without a valid immigration status, immigration enforcement has the authority to remove you from the United States.
However, if you fail to file through no fault of your own, you may file late with a written explanation and request that USCIS excuse the late filing. Failure to file before the expiration date may be excused if you demonstrate certain criteria. When you submit the petition, you must show that the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control. You’ll also need to demonstrate that the delay was reasonable. If you do have a compelling reason to file late, you should respond immediately. And you should consider contacting an immigration attorney that can guide you through this process.
Again, there is an exception if you are applying for a waiver of the joint filing requirement. You may file Form I-751 at any time after you are granted conditional residence and before you are removed from the United States.
I lost my conditional green card. Should I file Form I-751 now?
If you have a lost, stolen or damaged green card, you may need to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, to obtain a new one. There will be a government filing fee, and it will take approximately 8 to 10 months to receive a new card. However, do not use Form I-90 if you are within the 90-day window before your card expires. And never use Form I-90 to renew your conditional green card; you may only use Form I-90 to replace it.
Can business investors use Form I-751 to remove conditions on green card?
Conditional residents who obtained status through a financial investment in a U.S. business should not use Form I-751 to remove conditions on green card. Instead, investor permanent residents should use Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions.
I’m getting divorced. Can I still use Form I-751 to remove conditions on my green card?
In general, you are required to file Form I-751 jointly with the spouse through whom you obtained conditional status. However, sometimes life events get in the way. You may apply for a waiver to the joint filing requirement if:
- Your spouse is deceased; or
- You entered the marriage in good faith, but the marriage was later terminated due to divorce or annulment; or
- You entered the marriage in good faith, but you have been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by your petitioning spouse; or
- Your conditional resident parent entered the marriage in good faith, but you have been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by your parent’s spouse or by your conditional resident parent; or
- The termination of your status and removal would result in extreme hardship.
The waiver is not a separate form. You should prepare Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, and select the appropriate category in Waiver or Individual Filing Request (Part 3).
If you are applying for a waiver, you should also understand that your petition will be scrutinized more closely. You will need to provide ample documentation that proves your marriage was not entered for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws.
RECOMMENDED: I-751 Waiver After Divorce: Filing without the Ex
Can I use Form I-751 to remove conditions on residence for my children?
If your dependent children acquired conditional resident status on the same day as you or within 90 days thereafter, simply include their names and information in the same Form I-751 that you are filing for yourself. Be sure to include the additional biometrics fee and supporting documents.
However, if your dependent children acquired conditional resident status more than 90 days after you or the parent is now deceased, use a separate Form I-751 to remove the conditions.
What if I run out of room on Form I-751?
In some cases, you may have more information than can fit into the standard space provided on Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. If possible, you should make use of Page 11, Part 11 of Form I-751 to add any additional information which did not fit in other parts of the form.
When preparing Form I-751 on CitizenPath, our software will automatically prepare you an Additional Information sheet if necessary. Your extensive address history or other names will be neatly itemized so that USCIS can quickly process the petition.
What should I send with Form I-751 to provide proof of a bona fide marriage?
Submit evidence indicating that the marriage for which you were granted conditional status was entered in “good faith” and was not for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws. In other words, you need to prove that it is a real marriage. Submit copies of as many documents as you can to establish this fact and to demonstrate the circumstances of the relationship from the date of marriage to the present date, and to demonstrate any circumstances surrounding the end of the relationship, if it has ended. The documents should include but not be limited to the following examples:
- Marriage certificate
- Birth certificate(s) of child(ren) born to the marriage
- Lease or mortgage contracts showing joint occupancy and/or ownership of your communal residence
- Financial records showing joint ownership of assets and joint responsibility for liabilities, such as: joint savings and checking accounts with transaction history, joint credit card statements, joint Federal and State tax returns, joint insurance policies that show the other spouse as the beneficiary, joint utility bills, title of car showing joint ownership and other joint loans
- Any other documents that you consider relevant to establish that your marriage was not entered for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws
- Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by at least two people who have known both of you since your conditional residence was granted and have personal knowledge of your marriage and relationship. Learn How to Write an I-751 Affidavit Letter of Support.
- 10-20 photographs of married couple together. Examples could include wedding photos, traveling, special events with family and friends, etc. (You should also hand write the place, names and dates on the back of photos.)
All of the evidence above is made more effective if it starts at the time the marriage began up to the present time. Affidavits should be supported by other types of evidence listed above.
RECOMMENDED: 33 Great Documents for Proving a Bona Fide Marriage on an I-751 Petition
How long does it take to get a permanent green card after filing Form I-751?
Approximately 4 to 6 weeks after properly filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, USCIS will mail you Form I-797, Notice of Action. This “receipt letter” is your proof that USCIS has accepted the petition and will be reviewing it. The receipt letter also extends your resident status for an additional 18 months while USCIS adjudicates your case. Therefore, it is an extremely important document.
Within the following month, you will receive an appointment notice for a biometrics screening. This is generally a short appointment at a local USCIS office that includes gathering your fingerprints, photograph and signature.
The I-751 processing time varies but is generally 12 to 18 months. It can take longer in some cases. Upon approval, the immigrant spouse will receive an approval notice and then the 10-year green card in the mail. For current processing times for the office near your, check USCIS.
In some cases you may be asked to attend an interview at USCIS with your spouse. With a well-prepared petition package, USCIS may waive the I-751 interview. Typically, a decision comes shortly after the interview.
RECOMMENDED: Avoiding the I-751 Interview
How can I get help filling out Form I-751 to remove conditions on green card?
Whether you can apply to remove conditions now or in the future, a few things have sure become more and more important as we’ve seen immigration policies change during this pandemic:
- You want to be sure you are doing the right thing at the right time, and you have access to sound immigration advice.
- Additional delays are unacceptable. You can’t afford to wait any longer.
- You also want to make sure you’re not depending on brick-and-mortar facilities to complete your I-751 petition.
When you use CitizenPath, you can be sure you will have support in completing your petition every step of the way. And because we’re online, you can prepare your petition from the comfort and safety of your own home.
Our software has been reviewed by immigration attorneys to ensure accuracy. The system alerts you of any problems or missing information, and it shows you samples so you can submit the strongest possible case. In addition to your prepared form, CitizenPath provides you with a set of personalized filing instructions. Our filing instructions are customized to your answers in the petition so you know what to do for your specific situation. The filing instructions provide detailed directions on supporting documents, how to organize your petition, and where to mail it.
We are so sure that our software is the best possible way to complete your USCIS petition that we have a Satisfaction and an Approval Guarantee. If USCIS denies your petition, you get your USCIS fees AND our service fee back.
Take the guesswork out of your I-751 petition package and prepare your forms through CitizenPath. Start preparing your I-751 petition today and don’t pay until you’re good to go.
Note to Reader: This post was originally published on November 14, 2017, and has been modified with improvements.