Years ago, the U.S. government instituted tighter measures to help prevent marriage fraud. Issuing conditional green cards (CR-1 visas) to newly-married couples was one of those measures. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) places conditions on your green card so they can re-assess whether your marriage is based on a bona fide relationship with your spouse. This article explains the removal of conditions process for marriage green cards and answers some frequently asked questions about the process.
What is the process of applying for removal of conditions on a marriage green card?
If you and your U.S. green cardholder or U.S. citizen spouse were married for less than two years when you first obtained your immigrant visa, your green card is “conditional.” Conditional green cards provide the same immigration benefits as permanent resident cards but conditional green cards are only valid for two years. Before your conditional green card’s expiration date, you must apply for removal of conditions to get a renewable 10-year permanent resident card and continued lawful permanent resident status in the United States.
If you do not remove the conditions on your green card, you may risk facing removal proceedings or deportation once your conditional status expires. To remove the conditions on your green card, you’ll need to file Form I-751 (the “Petition to Remove Conditions”) during the 90-day period before your conditional permanent residency expires. Note that your application may be invalid if you file too early or too late. However, if your conditional green card has already expired, it may still be possible to file Form I-751. Sometimes U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes exceptions if you write them a letter explaining the extenuating circumstances that prevented you from filing sooner.
USCIS expects you to include new evidence proving that your marriage is real on the joint petition. You can provide photos together and joint financial statements and tax returns from the two-year period, or possibly birth certificates of any children you have had together.
You and your permanent resident spouse or U.S. citizen spouse must complete your Form I-751 petition together. On the form, you’ll need to provide biographical information, describe the basis for your petition, provide information about your spouse, and note whether you need any special accommodations for disabilities or impairments. You and your spouse must also sign the form. You’ll need to include a copy of the front and back of your conditional green card and pay a filing fee of $680. You should then mail your form to the appropriate address listed on USCIS’s website.
Processing times for this form can vary. To check the status of your petition, you can use USCIS’s “Check Case Processing Times” tool. USCIS will send you information about scheduling a biometric services appointment and an interview with a USCIS official. If USCIS approves your petition, you should receive your renewable 10-year green card in the mail soon.
What are some reasons USCIS may deny your removal of conditions application?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) typically denies applications for the following three reasons:
- You applied late and did not submit evidence of any extenuating circumstances that prevented you from filing on time.
- You and your spouse did not provide enough evidence that your marriage was real.
- USCIS has reason to believe that your marriage is fraudulent.
To avoid denial, you should be sure to file Form I-751 within 90 days before your conditional green card expires and provide substantial evidence that you had a bona fide marriage, as per U.S. immigration law.
Sometimes, USCIS sends applicants Requests for Evidence (RFEs). RFEs ask for additional documentation or explanations for something in your application. You must respond to any RFEs you receive from USCIS to remain in good standing for approval.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about removal of conditions
Sometimes, the Removal of Conditions process can be more complicated if you or your spouse have faced unexpected circumstances. You may consult the following frequently asked questions (FAQs) if you and your spouse have divorced, your spouse has passed away, your spouse was abusive, or you have questions about removing conditions on your children’s green cards.
What if our marriage ended in divorce?
If you and your spouse have divorced, you may still apply to remove the conditions on your green card, but you must include a request for a waiver of the joint filing requirement on Form I-751. Part 3, the “Basis for Petition” section of the form, will ask you to indicate why you are filing individually. You’ll still need to prove that your marriage began in good faith. In your application, you should include a copy of your divorce decree and evidence that your partner was at fault for ending the marriage or that you attempted to save your marriage (marriage counseling records).
What if my spouse died?
If your spouse passed away before you could remove the conditions on your green card, your eligibility will not be affected. You should file Form I-751 alone and include a copy of your spouse’s death certificate. You should include all evidence you have of the life you shared. You can file the form at any point between your spouse’s death and your conditional card’s expiration.
What if my spouse is abusive?
If your spouse is abusive, you can apply to remove the conditions on your green card alone without your spouse’s assistance. You should include evidence of the abuse, including restraining orders, affidavits from domestic violence shelters, photographs or medical reports documenting abuse injuries, and other evidence. If you and your spouse are now divorced, you should include a copy of your divorce decree too.
Can I use Form I-751 to remove conditions on my child’s green card?
If your dependent children received conditional resident status on the same day or no more than 90 days after you did, you can include their names and information on your Form I-751. You should account for any additional biometrics fees or supporting documents to include on their behalf.
If your dependent children obtained conditional resident status more than 90 days after you or you are deceased when they apply, they would need to file a separate Form I-751 to remove the conditions on their green cards.
How long does it take to get a permanent green card after filing for removal of conditions?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will mail you Form I-797 (the “Notice of Action”) about 4 to 6 weeks after you have filed Form I-751. Form I-797 is a receipt letter indicating that USCIS has accepted and will review your petition. This receipt letter extends your residency for an additional 18 months while USCIS considers your case. You should be sure to keep this document safe during the waiting period.
By the following month, you’ll receive a notification for your biometrics screening, where USCIS will take your fingerprints, photograph, and signature. In most cases, you and your spouse will also need to attend an interview with USCIS.
USCIS generally takes 12 to 18 months to process Form I-751, but the waiting time can vary. Once approved, you should receive an approval notice and your 10-year green card in the mail. Check USCIS’s website for current processing times for your USCIS office.
Applying for a green card can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your green card case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!