What is the Removal of Conditions on a Green Card?
If you have been issued a conditional green card by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you and your spouse must file a petition, Form I-751 (“Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”), to remove the conditional nature of your green card. Similarly, if you have been issued an employment-based green card as an entrepreneur, you will need to file Form I-829 (“Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions”) for the same purpose. This ultimate guide, however, will only focus on this process based on the marriage-based green card.
Filing these forms is a crucial step in immigration because conditional (two-year) green cards cannot be renewed. If you do not file for Removal of Conditions, you will lose permanent residency status and will need to leave the country or will begin to accrue illegal presence as an overstay. By applying for a Removal of Conditions, the validity of your marriage will be re-evaluated. Upon successful completion, you, along with any dependent children filed on your petition, will become lawful permanent residents with a 10-year green card.
Certain factors can complicate your case. If you may want to avoid the guesswork and experimentation, schedule a strategy call with our seasoned immigration attorneys who have handled successfully thousands of similar cases.
Eligibility Requirements for a Removal of Conditions on Green Card
To check if you are a conditional resident, look at the front of your green card for the letters “CR1” under the “Category” heading. Unless there is an exception in your case, Form I-751 requires you and your spouse to file jointly. Refer to the instructions on your I-751 for more information about waivers. Generally speaking, as a conditional resident you are eligible to remove the conditions on your green card if:
- You are still married to the same U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsor after two years (must file jointly)
- If your children have received conditional resident status at the same time as you or within 90 days, they may be included in your application (must file jointly)
- You are a child who is unable to be included in your parent's application for a valid reason (must file jointly)
- You are a widow or widower who entered the marriage in good faith (can file alone under certain conditions)
- You are divorced from a marriage with your sponsor spouse that was entered in good faith (can file alone under certain conditions)
- You or your child(ren) were abused by your U.S. citizen spouse after entering the marriage in good faith (can file alone under certain conditions)
- You would experience extreme hardship if your conditional resident status was revoked (can file alone under certain conditions)
Note that you may be able to apply without the joint filing requirement under multiple categories that apply to your situation.
Required Documentation and Fees for Removal of Conditions
- Form I-751 (“Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”) if filing with a marriage-based green card, $585.00.
- You will have to pay an $85.00 biometric fee for yourself, as well as an additional $85.00 for each dependent on your I-751
If you anticipate having difficulty in paying these fees, you can request a fee waiver by filing Form I-912 (“Request for Fee Waiver”) based on your household income, current receipt of means-tested benefits, or financial hardship. You can pay with a check, money order, or with credit card by submitting Form G-1450 (“Authorization for Credit Card Transactions”).
When mailing in your completed Form I-751, include the following supporting documents:
- Copies of you and your dependents’ current green cards, front and back.
- 2 passport-style photographs of yourself and of any children included in the application.
- Evidence supporting that your marriage was entered into in good faith. Suggested: documents that show a bonafide marriage such as joint tax filings, joint bank accounts, shared assets, mortgage or lease documents, documents that prove that you are still living together, birth certificates of children born from your marriage, affidavits from friends, etc.
- Records of any convictions or charges brought against you since you got your green card (if applicable). If this is applicable to you, it is critical that you speak to a seasoned attorney because your green card may be revoked.
- Evidence supporting your reasons for not filing jointly (if applicable). Suggested: your spouse’s death certificate, a divorce record, or official documents proving that you or your children have suffered from domestic abuse such as photos of injuries, copies of police reports, or protective orders against the abuser.
- An explanation for the reason you are filing late along with supporting documents (if applicable).
If you are filing overseas due to military or government service, make sure to also:
- Include your completed Form FD-258 fingerprint cards.
- Include a copy of your current military or government orders.
- Write “ACTIVE MILITARY” or “GOVERNMENT ORDERS” on the top of your I-751.
When to Apply for a Removal of Conditions
If you have a marriage-based green card and are filing jointly, you and your spouse must file Form I-751 immediately within 90 days of the two-year expiration date. If you are filing individually, you can file Form I-751 any time after you have received your conditional green card and before you are removed from the U.S. if:
- You and your spouse are divorced.
- Your spouse is deceased.
- You were abused by your spouse.
- You were abused by your parent’s spouse.
If You Do Not Properly File Within the 90-Day Period
You will receive a notice that informs you of your failure to file, as well as a Notice to Appear at a hearing. At the hearing, you are solely responsible for compiling evidence and proving that you complied with the requirements. You may also lose your conditional permanent residency status and may need to be removed from the country. If you are in this situation or nearing your submission deadline, consider consulting an experienced immigration lawyer that can help you file successfully.
If you file Form I-751 after the 90-day period, you are required to enclose a written request for a late filing excuse and an explanation to the director of the appropriate Service Center as to why you are filing late. Although it isn’t required, it is important that you include documents as evidence along with your explanation. Currently, USCIS recognizes the following circumstances as a “good cause” for filing late:
- You have a long-term illness or were hospitalized
- Death or serious illness in your immediate family
- You were experiencing legal or financial problems
- You had to care for someone
- There was a serious family emergency
- You made a diligent effort to collect the relevant documents to support your petition but could not do so within the appropriate time period
- You had a work commitment
- You had a family member serving on active duty with the U.S. military
Other extenuating circumstances than the list above can constitute a “good cause” for late filing, but it is up to you to provide that evidence. Note that you cannot cite USCIS’s lack of notification of your upcoming deadline as a “good cause”. If you have any questions about what circumstance would constitute a “good cause”, ask an immigration attorney.
While there is no guarantee that a late I-751 will be accepted even if an explanation is included, you should still submit your petition right away to avoid deportation. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to prove a “good cause”. Your best bet is to file in a timely manner.
If Your Conditional Green Card Has Expired
In this case, you will need to enclose a written explanation as to why you did not file sooner. The U.S. government may make an exception and allow you to file I-751 with your expired conditional green card, but they are more likely to consider such requests from applicants in “extraordinary circumstances” and delays in they deem “reasonable”.
How to Apply for Removal of Conditions
There are two ways you could go about filling out Form I-751. Either way, you will need to ultimately have the form printed out for mailing:
- You can type out your answers and print out the completed I-751
- You can print out a blank I-751 and handwrite your responses using black ink
Here, we’ll take an individual look at all 10 parts of Form I-751 and see what information is required to complete the form.
Part 1 of Form I-751: Basic Personal Information
In this section, you will provide basic information about yourself such as your name and marital status. You will also need to include your Alien Registration Number (or “A-Number”, which can be found on your green card), USCIS Online Account Number (if applicable), and your mailing and physical addresses.
Part 2 of Form I-751: Biographic Information
This section will ask for your biographic information such as your race, ethnicity, height, weight, and eye color.
Part 3 of Form I-751: Basis for Petition
Here, you will need to indicate the basis on which you are filing the petition. If you are filing jointly, check the appropriate box in “Joint filing” based on who you are filing with. If you are filing alone, check the appropriate box to indicate why your spouse is not filing with you.
Part 4 of Form I-751: Basic Information About Your Spouse
For this part, you are required to provide basic information about the sponsor who helped you get your green card.
Part 5 of Form I-751: Basic Information About Your Children
You will need to provide basic information about any children you may have. If you do not have any children, you may skip this part and move on to Part 6.
Part 6 of Form I-751: Accommodation for Individuals with Disabilities and Impairments
You can list any disabilities or impairments you may have for USCIS’s records and request an accommodation for your interview.
Part 7 of Form I-751: Acknowledgements and Signatures
Here, you and your spouse (if filing jointly) will need to verify that all of the information indicated on your petition is correct. You will also need to provide your contact information.
Part 8 of Form I-751: Signature of Information About Spouse Listed in Part 4
Similar to part 7, the person you listed in Part 4 is required to provide their personal information as well as sign in this section.
Part 9 of Form I-751: Interpreter’s Information and Signature
If an interpreter helped you prepare your petition, they are required to complete this section with a date and signature. They must also certify that they have read the acknowledgment of Appointment at USCIS Application Support Center in Part 7 to you.
Part 10 of Form I-751: Preparer Information and Signature
If someone else prepared your petition, they are required to complete this section with a signature. Additionally, if they are an attorney or an accredited representative, they must also submit a completed Form G-28 with your petition.
Part 11 of Form I-751: Additional Information
Part 11 is for any additional information you may want to provide. You may even make copies of this section for extra space for the other parts of your petition. Do not forget to sign your form! USCIS will reject any unsigned form.
After Completing Form I-751
Once you have finished filling out your I-751, you will need to send the form along with the supporting documents to USCIS by mail. USCIS recommends that you keep a copy of your petition for your personal reference in the future. The address you will send your petition packet to depends on where in the U.S. you live. Refer to USCIS’s website for more information about where to send your completed I-751.
If your petition has successfully gone through, USCIS will mail you a receipt letter, also called a Form I-797, that will allow you to track your form status online. Form I-797 can also be used to extend the validity of your green card for up to 24 months after its original expiration date, so make sure you present both your green card and the receipt when you need to prove your lawful permanent residence status. Read on to learn more about tracking your form status and processing times.
Biometrics Appointment and USCIS Interview
Along with your receipt letter, you will receive a date, time, and location for a biometrics appointment. Make sure you do not miss this appointment as it is extremely important.
Lastly, you may be required to attend an in-person interview to demonstrate your eligibility with USCIS. If you receive a letter for an interview, our suggestion is that you reach out to an attorney. In our experience, removal of condition cases that end with an interview typically have issues and need diligent preparation. At the interview, we suggest you follow the lead of your marriage-based immigration attorney. Generally, you should be prepared to answer personal questions about yourself and the relationship that is the basis for your marriage green card. If you have submitted compelling evidence that proves that your relationship with your spouse is legitimate, USCIS may also opt to waive this interview.
If your petition is approved, you will be mailed a notice of approval as well as your 10-year green card. You must renew this card before it expires until you choose to naturalize.
Tracking Form Status and Processing Times
You can track the status of your form online through USCIS’s Case Status page using your receipt number. The processing time for Form I-751 depends on many factors, such as the thoroughness of your petition package and whether or not USCIS makes a request for additional information. Generally speaking, currently, your I-751 can take approximately anywhere between 12 to 18 months to process. You may also review your field office’s processing times on the USCIS website and make a case inquiry if you feel that your case is pending outside of normal processing times.
Reasons for Removal of Conditions Denial and Red Flags
Multiple factors can lead to your Removal of Conditions petition being denied. Here are some general non-exhaustive reasons:
- There is a lack of evidence proving that your relationship with your spouse and your marriage is bonafide.
- The nature of evidence and the manner of collection of the evidence was done in preparation for the interview, and not as a natural byproduct of having a genuine marital relationship.
- USCIS is considering the possibility that your marriage is fraudulent.
- You filed I-751 late and failed to provide evidence of your extenuating circumstances that prevented you from filing on time.
Additionally, here are some red flags USCIS will take note of when reviewing your application:
- You and your spouse got divorced or separated during the process
- Inconsistencies in the records
- Your living condition - whether you and your spouse live together or not
- A large difference in age
- Conflicting religious backgrounds
- You and your spouse are unable to speak the same language
- USCIS background checks reveal conflicting or contradictory information
- Other information that may appear unusual in the experience of your particular IO (immigration officer)
These reasons for denial may be prevented as long as you file timely, provide compelling evidence that you have made a life with your spouse, and properly respond to USCIS’s Requests for Evidence (RFEs). Your immigration status is something immensely important in your life. When in doubt, don’t experiment. Hire competent legal representation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the purpose of a conditional green card?
A. USCIS introduced the conditional green card as a measure against green card fraud. By assigning you a conditional green card for a two-year period, USCIS has another chance to evaluate the authenticity of your marriage.
Q. What is the difference between a conditional green card and a 10-year green card?
A. Both cards or immigration statuses allow the bearer largely the same rights and responsibilities. The fundamental difference is that a conditional green card cannot be renewed and that a conditional green card holder must apply to remove the conditions on their green card in order to receive the unconditional, renewable, permanent 10-year green card.
Q. What if I am a lawful permanent resident with a 10-year green card?
A. Since you are not considered a conditional permanent resident, you are not required to apply for Removal of Conditions. You can either renew your green card, replace it, or apply for citizenship if you are eligible to do so.
Q. What if my spouse and I get divorced while my I-751 is pending?
A. A divorce is not in and of itself a condition to lose your green card status and be placed in deportation (removal proceedings). This is really an area you need to review with an experienced immigration attorney because major issues could come up. If or when the divorce is finalized, you may need to notify USCIS and be prepared to respond to a RFE they may send about the situation. We suggest you follow your attorney’s lead to minimize the risk of revocation or damage to the case. When you respond to this RFE, you may need to include a cover letter explaining details of the divorce, any possible attempts to save the marriage, other evidence of bona fide marriage, etc. You may be asked to or need to also enclose the divorce decree itself and request that your application be changed to a divorce-based waiver petition.
Q. Why did my case get transferred to the National Benefits Center (NBC)?
A. This is largely due to USCIS case overload. With an increasing number of Form I-751 applicants since 2016, the caseload has been distributed across the many USCIS offices. Thus, NBC will process your petition normally and schedule your interview.
Q. How do I appeal a denial?
A. We strongly advise you to review or discuss this with an immigration attorney first. An appeal of a denial will depend on whether an NTA (“Notice to Appear”) has been issued. An NTA, in essence, is the document that begins your deportation or removal proceedings. If an NTA has not yet been issued, you may be able to appeal the case outside of immigration court. If you are sent a NTA before an immigration judge for removal proceedings, then any appeals would have to be made to the immigration judge. At the hearing, you can request that the immigration judge reviews your denial. They must prove that your form was rightfully denied, or that the information you indicated on your application is false. If the immigration judge issues an order of removal, file Form EOIR-26 (“Notice of Appeal from a Decision of an Immigration Judge”) to appeal the decision. You will have 30 days to do this. The Board of Immigration Appeals will review your Form EOIR-26.