A green card or permanent resident card is — well, permanent, isn’t it? Not necessarily. If you are awarded permanent resident status based on marriage to a US citizen, and you had been married for less than two years on the date your green card was issued, you will be a conditional resident, not a permanent resident, no matter what it says on your green card.
In that case, your green card will function as a temporary resident card. What they call it, of course, is something else, in order to render the contradiction less obvious. What you carry in your wallet is a “conditional” permanent residence card. Within two years you will need to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, to remove that condition; otherwise, your conditional resident status will expire and you will have to leave the US.
The Petition to Remove Conditions on Your Permanent Residence
The reason why the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues temporary green cards to spouses of US citizens who have been married for less than two years, is that they fear your marriage petition is fraudulent — in other words, they fear that the marriage took place for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.
- Imagine a foreign national making a deal with a US citizen — “Let’s get married. I will pay you $50,000 once the marriage certificate is issued, you sponsor me for a green card, and when the green card is issued we can divorce and you’ll be $50,000 richer. This sort of thing happens all the time.
- Another common scam is when the foreign spouse convinces the US citizen that she loves him (or he loves her) when in truth, the only motivation for the marriage is a green card. Once the green card arrives in the mail, a divorce petition is likely not far off.
- The third type of scam is the sympathy ploy — “I will be killed if I go back to my home country, but I can’t apply for asylum because I don’t have enough evidence to prove it.”
It is likely that your marriage is not of this sort — after all, most marriages between Americans and foreign spouses are not fraudulent — and Herman Legal Group can help you prove it with a joint petition to remove conditions on your permanent residence.
A significant number of marriages are fraudulent, unfortunately, which is why the USCIS closely scrutinizes marriage green card petitions. The reason for the two-year rule and the requirement to file the Form I-751 petition to remove conditions on residency is the assumption that not many fraudulent marriages will last two years — the time cost is simply too high for most people.
Removal of Condition Two Years Later Via Form I-751 and an Interview With a USCIS Officer
After two years, you can use USCIS Form I-751 to petition the USCIS to remove conditions on your green card. In fact, you will have to do this in order to remain in the United States legally. More specifically, you must file the I-751 petition to remove conditions within 90 days before the 2-year anniversary of your grant of conditional residency.
You are a Person, Not a Case Number. At Herman Legal Group, We Understand the Difference
Immigration law is federal law, meaning that it doesn’t matter where in the world you live — basic US immigration law is the same (some US embassies and consulates apply differing policies concerning supplemental documentation, etc., but these differences are typically relatively minor. The Herman Legal Group represents immigration clients in all 50 states plus Washington, DC, and all over the world.
Despite the uniformity of immigration law, the application of the law to the fact of an individual case can greatly complicate matters. At Herman Legal Group, we are well aware that no two petitions are alike, any more than any two fingerprints are. We treat your case with the individuality it deserves, and you as the individual you are.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is an in-person I-751 interview absolutely necessary? I get nervous easily, and I am afraid I will flub the interview.
An interview is not always required, but there is no guarantee that you will not have to attend one. We can coach you and help you prepare for the interview, and we can even attend the interview with you. Simply being nervous might not be enough to derail your petition to remove conditions on permanent residence — even people who married in good faith get nervous when the stakes are this high.
What happens to my green card if my spouse and I have already divorced by the time my I-751 petition interview is scheduled?
Normally, you and your spouse must file a joint petition to remove conditions on residence (Form I-751) to have your green card condition removed so that you can become a true permanent resident of the United States. If you are divorced, your spouse is no longer your spouse and will not be able to file a joint petition with you.
Although it is possible for you to apply for and receive a waiver of this requirement, a divorce will cause the immigration officer to doubt your good faith, and it will greatly reduce the odds that your I-751 petition to remove conditions on permanent residence will be successful.
What happens to my green card if my spouse and I have already separated (but not yet divorced by the time my interview is scheduled?
If you are separated but not divorced when the time comes to file your Form I-751 petition to remove conditions on residence, your spouse can file a joint Form I-751 petition to remove conditions with you if he or she is willing to cooperate. The USCIS officer will be looking to determine whether the marriage was entered into in good faith at the time you were married, not whether or not you are still willing to remain married two years later.
Even if your spouse jointly files Form I-751 with you, however, your separation may raise doubts about whether the marriage was originally entered into in good faith, especially if the separation occurred shortly after your green card was issued.
What happens if I file a joint Form I-751 with my spouse, but it has not yet been approved or denied by the time my two-year green card expiration date arrives?
Once the USCIS accepts your Form I-751 (as evidenced by the Form I-797C Notice of Action Receipt Notice that the USCIS will send you in the mail), your green card will be automatically extended for 18 months. Even if your additional 18 months elapse without a decision, you will still have the right to remain in the US until the USCIS decides on your petition.
Can I use my receipt notice to work while I am in the United States?
Yes, you can. You do not have to apply for a separate Employment Authorization Document, as many people on nonimmigrant visas do. If your green card has already expired, your green card plus your Notice of Action provide evidence of your right to work in the United States.
Can I use my receipt notice to travel outside the United States and return while my I-751 petition to remove conditions on a residence is pending?
Yes, you can. You can return to the US as long as you have your green card and your receipt notice. It is also possible to receive an I-551 extension stamp from the USCIS that will allow you to travel overseas and return. Do not lose these documents while you are overseas, or you could end up stranded.
How long does it take to process Form I-751?
The timing varies from year to year, but currently, it takes at least 18 months and often longer to remove the conditions on your lawful permanent resident status. Be prepared for a long wait.
What happens if my Form I-751 is approved?
If your Form I-751 is approved, the USCIS will remove the conditions on your lawful permanent resident status and you will become a bona fide permanent resident of the United States.
Contact Herman Legal Group Today
Odds are we speak your native language — our staff is fluent in over a dozen languages including Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Amharic. We’ve been practicing immigration law for over a quarter of a century, and we have helped thousands of clients make their dreams come true. We’d like to do the same for you. If you need us to help you remove the conditions on your lawful permanent resident status, we stand ready to assist.
You can contact us 24 hours a day by calling (+1) (800) 808-4013 or (+1)(614) 300-1131 from anywhere in the world, by completing our online form, or by stopping in at our office located at 6660 North High Street, Suite 3E, Worthington, Ohio 43085.