With conditional permanent residence, you have access to most of the services and benefits of US permanent residents. Here’s the problem: Your status, since it is conditional, will be temporary. For this reason, you will need to have the conditions of your permanent residence removed. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the conditional permanent residence, what it is, and how you can successfully remove the conditions on your residence.
Have you recently arrived in the United States? Did you gain entry as the recent spouse of a US citizen? If your answer is “yes” to either one of these questions, you likely have conditional permanent residence in the United States.
With conditional permanent residence, you have access to most of the services and benefits of US permanent residents. Here’s the problem:
Your status, since it is conditional, will be temporary. For this reason, you will need to have the conditions of your permanent residence removed. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the conditional permanent residence, what it is, and how you can successfully remove the conditions on your residence.
What Is “Conditional” Permanent Residence?
The terms “conditional” and “permanent” can appear contradictory, especially when lumped together. Allow us to explain.
When you receive status as a conditional permanent resident of the US, you are “permanent” in terms of:
- You are eligible for many rights and privileges that come with US residence.
- You can live anywhere in the United States.
- You can work or seek employment with any private US-based employer.
Of course, you would need some sort of documentation to prove your legal status in the United States. Otherwise, you may face deportation and other issues with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service or the Department of Homeland Security!
For any permanent resident, this identification is the highly-coveted Green Card. A Green Card is proof of your permanent residence in the United States.
Conditional permanent residence refers to the type of permanent residence you have. “Conditional” means more than having restrictions on your Green Card (although this is true to some extent).
The conditions set are those that apply to how long you can stay in the United States. In other words, a conditional permanent resident can live and work anywhere in the United States. However, with conditions, you can only enjoy these privileges for a limited period. This period is two years.
How Can I Be Eligible For Conditional Permanent Residence?
Conditional permanent residence can be awarded for several reasons. Entrepreneurs who have entered the US to open their businesses can be eligible. After all, they do create jobs for Americans.
However, not everyone has deep enough pockets to start businesses (in the US, no less!). The other most common reason is marriage. More specifically, marriage to a US citizen can make you eligible for conditional permanent residence.
The marriage also needs to be valid. A valid marriage can be:
- One made in the United States
- One made in the foreign national’s country
In either case, you and your spouse need to have the right papers. Often, this is the marriage certificate. Preferably, this must be signed and notarized.
In a nutshell, eligibility requirements for conditional permanent residence by marriage are:
- Marriage to a US Citizen or Permanent Resident in the US or a foreign country
- Signed and notarized marriage certificate
How Do I Remove Conditions?
The “conditions” of your permanent residence will only permit you to stay in the United States temporarily.
With a conditional status, you can only remain or be employed in the US for two years. If you wish to stay longer, you will have to get the conditions of your permanent residence removed.
Here are the steps to removing the conditions of your permanent residence:
Step 1: Ensure That You and Your Spouse Meet the Eligibility Requirements
Before you proceed to the next steps, you need to see if you meet the eligibility requirements. Doing this will save you a lot of time, effort, and money.
For conditional permanent residence by marriage, one eligibility requirement is the length of the marriage.
You can only apply jointly with your spouse if you have been married to your spouse for the duration of your conditional permanent residence. So, if you have been married to the same US citizen or permanent resident for two years, you meet this requirement.
Once you have established your marriage for two years, you can now proceed to step two!
Step 2: Have Your Documents Ready
Yes, you can perform this step after you have filled in your Form I-751. However, having supporting documents ready before getting Form I-751 can make the process faster and easier.
So, what are supporting documents?
Supporting documents prove your legal status in the United States at the time of your application. Also, since your status is through your marriage, you need documents that prove your marriage or spousal relationship.
Re-admissibility into the United States is also a big deal. So, any criminal records need to be brought to the fore.
In no particular order, the documents you will need are:
- Your current Green Card
- Marriage certificate to prove a spousal relationship
- Court or law enforcement statements; any criminal record or document proving that you have no pending criminal charges
- Joint documents with your spouse that establish a marital relationship
Step 3: Fill Out an I-751 Form
If you’re an entrepreneur, the form will be different. For conditional permanent residents through marriage, form I-751 is the requirement.
You can download a copy of Form I-751 from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The form is about ten pages long, and will ask you for information about:
- Yourself (e.g., names used, address in the United States, mode of filing, etc.)
- Your dependents or children if you have any
- A petitioner’s statement (section 7 of the form)
- Your spouse
You need to fill out Form I-751 together with your spouse. This is called joint filing.
In the case that you’ve gotten divorced during the two years, see step four.
Step 4: If Divorced, Get a Waiver of Joint Filing
Your marriage may not last two years. Whether you end up divorced or your spouse passes away, this can mean the end of your marriage.
Can it jeopardize your application for unconditional permanent residence? Not if you secure a waiver.
Remember (step two) that filling out I-751 is a joint activity. In other words, you need to fill it out and file it with your spouse. A waiver will allow your application to continue even after your marriage has ended within two years.
In addition to being divorced or your spouse passing away, you may also seek a waiver of the joint filing requirement (and file without your spouse) if you have been subjected to abuse or extreme cruelty during the marriage or if being deported to your home country would cause you to suffer extreme hardship.
Step 5: Pay The Necessary Fees
You can determine the fees you will have to pay by using the USCIS fee calculator.
The fee calculator will give you the exact amount you’ll have to pay. You can expect the following fees:
- Filing fee ($585.00)
- Biometrics fee ($85.00)
Depending on your circumstances, you may need to pay additional fees.
Step 6: Mail Your Application EARLY
What do we mean by “early”?
The average application processing time of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is about three months. In other words, that is 90 calendar days from the day of receipt.
So, to reduce your chances of rejection, mail your application 90 days before the expiration of your conditional Green Card.
By this step, you will have completed:
- Your Form I-751
- Supporting documents
- Checks, money orders, other proof of payment
Altogether, these will be your application package. You can send your application online or by post.
At the time of writing, the USCIS has two mailing addresses. These are:
P.O. Box 21200
Phoenix, AZ 85036
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
The latter is best if you wish to mail your application via FedEx, UPS, or DHL.
Step 7: Await the Decision of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Once you have mailed your application, you just have to wait for the decision. Often, the USCIS decides on your application or petition for condition removal within 90 days.
Between the time you send your application and the end of 90 days, you can check on your application.
How? You will receive a receipt from the USCIS (either by post or by email). This receipt will contain your case number.
Your case number is proof that the USCIS is reviewing and processing your application. You can check its status by using USCIS’s online case management tool.
All you need to do is input your receipt number on the site’s online form. This will redirect you to a page showing you where you are in the application process.
What Could Lead to the Rejection of My Application?
Your application can be rejected for several reasons. Here are some of the most common causes for rejections:
Sending Your Application Late
By “late,” we mean sending your joint petition after your green card has expired and failing to provide a sufficient reason for the late filing.
A late application will almost always lead to rejection. Worse yet, you can lose your legal status while waiting for the USCIS’s decision. And, as we all know, the loss of legal status can get you deported despite your marital status.
Not Filing Jointly or With a Waiver
Failing to clearly state that you are filing jointly with your spouse or that you are requesting a waiver of the joint filing requirement will lead to the rejection of your application.
Incomplete Forms and Requirements
You need to fill out Form I-751 completely. Missing any field can lead to rejection. Your documents also need to be completed.
Not Following Instructions in Regards to Documents
This page has all the instructions on properly compiling your documents.
You’ll find a lot of instructions. However, if we were to summarize them, our suggestions would be:
- Submit copies of your documents, and not the originals
- Use a binder or a folder that can be unfastened or disassembled quickly
- Do not staple your documents and Form I-751 together
- Use paper clips instead of staplers
- Sign your form
- Make sure your documents are in English
Do this, and it increased your chances of submitting a properly compiled application!
An arrest does not automatically disqualify you from applying for removal of conditions. It can, however, make the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS suspicious.
This is why you need to submit an official statement from a court or police agency. This statement should say that:
- You were not charged with a crime.
- Or, the charges against you were dropped.
Anything on your record that indicates an ongoing criminal case is a red flag to the USCIS and DHS.
Why Do I Need To Be Married for Two Years?
We understand that the two-year rule can seem unfair. Be that as it may, the United States government has a reason for imposing this.
The two-year waiting period serves as a sort of probationary period. The federal government has become increasingly aware of marriages by convenience. That is, many foreign nationals see marriage as a gateway to a US Green Card.
The federal government needed a way to regulate the influx of foreign nationals taking advantage of the US’s program for spousal immigration. This is why the government set two years as the probationary period.
For the federal government, two years is sufficient time for a marriage to prove itself legitimate. In other words, if you can stay married for two years, it means that you are more likely married for love and not a Green Card.
At least, that’s how the federal government sees it.
Depending on your circumstances, applying for unconditional permanent residence can be challenging. As you have seen, it’s a process laden with many documents, requirements, and procedures. Completing the application on your own might lead to a rejection or a denial.
Or, you can maximize your chances of success. How?
Give us a call at Reeves Immigration Law Group. With our expertise and experience in US immigration laws, we will be in your corner as you apply to remove the conditions on your permanent residence in the United States.
Call us or visit us now for tried, tested, and proven results!