Making a Conditional Green Card Permanent
By David Ionson
Virtually everyone has heard of a “green card marriage”—a sham marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreign national so that the foreign national can become a permanent U.S. resident. Understandably, the USCIS is suspicious of individuals who marry citizens and immediately seek a green card. Consequently, if the marriage has lasted for less than two years when the green card is approved, the card is “conditional.” Conditional cards last only for two years.
Process for Removing the Condition:
If your green card is conditional, you will need to remove the condition to make your status permanent and avoid removal (deportation). You begin by filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. If you are your spouse are still married, you should file the application jointly.
You must convince the USCIS that you did not get married to evade the U.S. immigration laws. Consequently, you will need to submit additional documents that support your claim that you married in good faith, such as birth certificates for children, documents showing joint ownership of assets and debts, and affidavits of people who know the circumstances of your marriage. In addition, you may have to appear for an interview.
When Joint Filing Is not Possible:
If you are unable to file a joint petition, you may request a waiver of the joint filing requirement for any of the following reasons:
Death, divorce, or annulment. You married in good faith, but your spouse has died or your marriage has been ended by divorce or annulment.
Abuse. You married in good faith, are still married, but you have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by your spouse.
Extreme hardship. Termination of your permanent resident status and removal (deportation) from the U.S. would result in extreme hardship.
If you are filing a joint petition, you must file it during the 90 days before the expiration of your conditional green card, which is your second anniversary as a conditional resident. If you do not apply to remove the conditions in time, you could lose your conditional resident status and be removed from the country. Failure to file before the deadline may be excused if you can prove it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control.
If you are requesting a waiver of the joint filing requirement, you may file the petition at any time before you are removed.
It is strongly suggested that you consult with an immigration attorney before filing I-751 to ensure the paperwork is properly completed and that you are providing sufficient supporting evidence.