An immigrant married to their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse for fewer than two years will first be granted what is called Conditional Resident Status. The two years are calculated from the date of the marriage to the date the immigrant either is approved for U.S. residence by USCIS, or to the date they entered the U.S. on their approved immigrant visa. A Conditional Permanent Resident green card is valid for two years, at the end of which the applicant must apply to remove their conditions. If the immigrant fails to apply to remove their conditions, the permanent residency status expires and deportation and removal procedures may begin against him or her.
USCIS implemented this process to detect fraudulent immigration applications. “Green card marriages” or “marriages of convenience,” where people briefly marry U.S. citizens or permanent residents solely for permanent residency status, are one of the most common forms of immigration fraud. To ensure the long-term validity of the marriage and deter fraud, USCIS mandates that all foreign national spouses applying for a green card have to go through a two-year conditional permanent resident status before they are issued a regular ten-year green card.
A foreign national living in the United States as a Conditional Permanent Resident is required to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, within the 90 day period prior to the expiration of their conditional residency status. This form must be filed jointly by the foreign-born applicant and his or her U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. If the petition is successful, the applicant will have his or her conditional status removed and receive a new Permanent Resident card that is valid for ten years.
Who is eligible to File Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence?
A typical Form I-751 petition must be filed jointly by both the foreign national and his or her U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. Any children who have received conditional status at the same as the applicant can also be included in the joint Form I-751 petition.
Exemptions to Joint Filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence:
There are certain exemptions allowed by law where applicants can apply to waive the joint filing requirement of the I-751 petition. These exemptions are:
- Children who were not able to be included in their parent’s Form I-751 petition.
- It was a genuine marriage done in good faith, but the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse has since died.
- The marriage was genuine and done in good faith, but has since ended divorce or annulment
- The marriage was entered in good faith but the foreign spouse and/or their minor children has experienced domestic abuse at the hands of the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse.
- The applicant and any accompanying children will suffer extreme hardship in the event of termination of permanent residency status and removal.
When asking for a waiver it is very important to provide accompanying proof with your request; for example, a death certificate where a spouse has died, a copy of the divorce papers, or police or medical proof in cases of spousal abuse.
For help with filing a Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence please contact a qualified and licensed immigration attorney.