Here are ten things you need to know about your conditional permanent residency after marrying a U.S. Citizen.
1. Why am I a conditional permanent resident and not simply a permanent resident?
This is because you were married less than two years to your US Citizen spouse when either,you arrived in the United States on an immigrant visa, or were approved for a green card via adjustment of status.
If you have not yet applied for your green card, and you have been married for almost two years, you may want to wait until you reach the two-year mark. This will save you from having to remove the conditions on your green card in the future.
2. Does the time I am a conditional green card holder count towards the time needed to naturalize?
Yes, it does. While you have your conditional green card you are accruing time towards becoming a naturalized US Citizen. Generally a person needs to wait 5 years in order to apply for U.S. Citizenship (the application may be filed up to 90 days earlier than the 5 year mark). However, since you obtained your green card based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen you may be eligible to file 3 years after you obtained your conditional green card.
You will, however, need to stay married to your U.S. citizen spouse up to your citizenship interview. The ability to file early will be lost if you separate or divorce legally prior to your interview, or even if you choose to stop living with your spouse. You will also lose this ability to file early if your spouse died prior to your interview.
You should be able to file for U.S. Citizenship while your I-751 is pending. However, this can get complicated and is beyond the scope of this article. You may be in a position of having your I-751 and Citizenship cases being resolved on the same day. If this interests you, you should definitely speak to an experienced immigration attorney.
3. When do I remove the conditions on my conditional permanent residence?
You must remove the conditions on your green card within the ninety day period of time before it expires. Your green card itself will tell you when it expires. This is very important to do and you must take this step or you can be put in removal proceedings and can lose your green card.
You will need to collect evidence and at least 2 affidavits from friends, family etc. ,along with other evidence showing that you are still married, to submit along with your I-751. Therefore, please do not wait until the last minute to start working on this process. You really should be collecting this evidence once you receive your conditional green card. You should have a file and every month put evidence in this file (joint credit card receipts, joint bank statements, joint financial documents etc.) You can find information about what to collect here.
4. What form do I use?
Use the I-751 form. Do not use the I-90 form. (I have been asked this question many times over the years.) The I-90 form is for people renewing their ten-year (permanent) green card. For information about supporting evidence to submit with your I-751 form please visit our I-751 page on our website.
5. Can I work and travel with my conditional permanent resident card?
Yes. You may do both but I would be careful concerning travelling. You will receive a notice from USCIS, about a month after you file your I-751 which will state that your green card is extended. This is form I-797. The extension should be for 12 to 18 months. (This is because these cases are now taking a long time.) You need to carry this document with your green card at all times. Do not forget to carry your green card as it has your picture on it and the form I-797 does not. If you have to produce your green card for some reason you will need to have both.
While your I-751 case is pending you remain a legal permanent resident.
I do not however, recommend that you travel outside of the country while your case is pending. This is because you do not want to be outside of the country if your case is denied. This is a cautious approach but it is what I generally recommend to my clients. You should definitely speak to an experienced immigration attorney if you wish to travel outside of the country while your I-751 case is pending.
Also, never travel outside of the country with an expired I-797.
6. Should I continue to gather marital bona fide documents like I did before my green card interview?
Yes. The documented proof of your shared life with your spouse will be needed when you file to take the conditions off of your green card. So keep your pictures and proof of joint travel, joint ownership of assets and joint financial documents. You should continue to gather these documents after you file your I-751 as you may be called in by USCIS for another interview. You will want to have these documents available. For more information about the documents you will want to file in your case, you should visit our I-751 page.
7. Is it easier to remove the conditions on my green card if I file with my spouse?
Yes, but please see the answer to the next question.
8. Can I file to remove the conditions on my green card without my spouse?
Yes. Sadly some marriages don’t last very long and in that situation, you may be able to file a waiver of the joint filing requirement for the I-751. If this is your situation do not wait to act. I strongly suggest you speak to an experienced immigration attorney, as soon as possible, if you are in this position. The attorney can help you decide on the best course of action and help you preserve your rights and remedies.
9. What kind of waivers are there available?
If your spouse dies you can apply for a waiver.
If you are divorced then you can file for a waiver. You will have to prove that you entered into the marriage in “good faith”. This means that you really wanted to get married to each other (it truly was a legitimate marriage) and you were not married just to obtain a green card.
If you are not divorced but your spouse does not wish to help you remove the conditions on your green card then you can still apply for a waiver. If your divorce is pending there are certain situations where you can file your waiver under the “good faith” standard. You will have to prove that you suffered extreme cruelty or abuse from your US Citizen spouse or that the termination of your status would result in “extreme hardship”.
I strongly suggest that if you find yourself in the any of these situations that you retain an experienced immigration attorney to help you. Except in the case of a death of a spouse, I would also suggest that you consult with a family law attorney.
10. Do I need an immigration lawyer?
Even the simplest immigration matter can quickly turn into a nightmare, so it is always better to at least speak with an experienced immigration attorney. (You are under no obligation to hire an immigration attorney.) If you are having marital problems you should speak to an experienced immigration attorney immediately. Do not wait until you are required to file the I-751 to visit with an immigration attorney. Instead be proactive and meet with one now.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is not legal advice but general information only. Laws can and do change. This article is only a very basic introduction to this topic. It is not meant as a substitute for legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. You should seek a competent immigration attorney to review your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with your case or filing anything with USCIS.
Lawrence Gruner is a Sacramento Immigration Lawyer , marriage green card attorney Citizenship Attorney and fiance visa attorney over 20 years of experience handling immigration cases. His office is in downtown Sacramento. His office handles cases in California, the United States and the World. He would be happy to talk to you, free of charge, about your specific situation. He can help you come up with an immigration plan. He would be happy to talk to you about your I-751 case or other immigration case free of charge. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-801-6558 or 916-760-7270.