Conditional Green Cards: Removing Conditions on Family-Based Visas
Turn that conditional green card into a ticket to permanent residency and, eventually, US citizenship. Follow the steps to change your temporary status.
Holding Conditional Permanent Resident Status, aka a conditional green card, puts you in a precarious situation. These are typically granted to individuals who marry a US citizen or lawful permanent resident.
Why have we called your position precarious?
A conditional green card is a two-year temporary status designed to ensure that the marriage is genuine and not solely for immigration purposes. It’s important to note that conditional green cards are also granted to the children of foreign fiancés or fiancées when they enter the US and marry within 90 days.
In either case, you will be granted a temporary permanent residency, which is why we are writing today to guide you through removing conditions on your family-based visas.
The Conditions Attached to Conditional Green Cards
The conditions associated with a conditional green card require the holder to live with their US citizen or permanent resident spouse in a legitimate marriage.
To maintain this status, individuals are required to request the removal of conditions within 90 days preceding the second anniversary of receiving the conditional green card.
Removing conditions on family-based visas is important because if the conditional green card expires, you might be removed from the United States at any point after the completion of those final 90 days. Once the conditions are removed, the temporary resident is granted a permanent 10-year green card.
Let us walk you through the steps of removing these conditions.
Timing is Crucial
Removing conditions on family-based visas begins with understanding the significance of timing. You must file the petition to remove conditions during the 90-day window preceding the two-year anniversary of receiving your conditional green card. Missing this deadline could potentially lead to the expiration of your conditional green card and the risk of deportation. Therefore, it’s crucial to set up reminders and remain vigilant about adhering to this timeline.
The 90-day period before the second anniversary is a critical window, and it’s advisable to start your preparations well in advance. By having all the required documentation ready and ensuring that you file the petition on time, you can avoid unnecessary complications and ensure the continuity of your legal status.
Gather Comprehensive Supporting Documentation
The strength of your petition to remove conditions hinges on the quality and comprehensiveness of your supporting documentation. These documents serve as the pillars of your case, and they should leave no room for doubt regarding the authenticity of your marriage. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) closely scrutinizes these documents to ascertain the legitimacy of your marriage.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of the types of documentation to include.
- Joint Financial Records
These records provide a clear picture of your financial interdependence. Include documents such as joint bank accounts, credit card statements in both spouses’ names, and tax returns filed jointly. These financial records demonstrate your commitment to sharing economic responsibilities in the marriage.
- Evidence of Shared Living
To prove that you reside together as a married couple, include documents such as lease agreements or mortgage statements showing both your names, utility bills showing joint responsibility, and receipts for rental or mortgage payments. These documents illustrate your shared living arrangements and financial commitments.
- Joint Assets and Liabilities
Show that you and your spouse share assets and liabilities as a married couple. Include evidence of joint ownership of property, assets, and debts, such as jointly held titles on vehicles, real estate, and documents related to shared loans or credit card debts. This demonstrates your commingled financial interests and responsibilities as a couple.
- Family Photos
Collect a variety of photographs that depict the different aspects of your married life. These photos can serve as compelling visual evidence of your shared experiences and prove that you are not attempting to capitalize on the marriage-based immigration laws of the United States.
Include pictures from significant milestones, family gatherings, vacations, and everyday life. Make sure to provide context for each photo, explaining the date, location, and the people depicted.
Your written communication with your spouse plays a vital role in demonstrating an ongoing and genuine relationship. If it’s too intimate, you don’t have to, but you could include letters, cards, and emails exchanged between you and your spouse to strengthen your case.
These documents reveal the emotional and communicative aspects of your marriage and could help to remove conditions on your family-based visa.
- Affidavits from Family and Friends
Statements from at least two friends and/or family members who can vouch for the authenticity of your marriage are valuable supporting evidence. These affidavits serve to further validate your relationship from the perspective of individuals who know you well.
When collecting and organizing these documents, attention to detail is essential. Ensure that your records are well-organized, easily accessible, and clearly labeled. The people providing these affidavits are also required to mention the following details:
- Their full name;
- Current address;
- Date of birth;
- Place of birth;
- Relation to the conditional resident.
They should then go on to provide a statement telling the USCIS how they know the couple has entered the marriage in “good faith.”
By thoroughly preparing and presenting a comprehensive set of such supporting documentation, you can significantly strengthen your case and enhance the likelihood of a successful outcome when you file the petition to remove conditions.
Filing Form I-751
The next critical step in removing conditions on family-based visas is to complete and submit Form I-751, the Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence. This form serves as the formal request to remove the conditions from your green card, transitioning you from a temporary resident to a permanent one.
Here are key considerations when filling out Form I-751:
- Joint Filing
For most conditional green card holders, joint filing is the standard procedure. This means that both you and your spouse will sign and submit Form I-751 together. This joint filing signifies your commitment to the authenticity of your marriage and provides compelling evidence of its legitimacy.
- Exceptions for Abuse or Extreme Hardship
In cases where joint filing is not possible due to divorce, abuse, or extreme hardship, you may file a waiver of the requirement. To seek a waiver, you must provide valid reasons and supporting evidence to substantiate the need for such an exception.
When applying for a waiver, it’s crucial to present a clear and persuasive argument, along with supporting documentation that substantiates your claim. In cases of abuse, you might provide documents such as restraining orders or police reports.
In contrast, cases of extreme hardship may require extensive documentation to establish the difficulties you have encountered. Seek legal counsel via immigration law consultations if you are unsure about your eligibility for a waiver, as this is a complex area that may benefit from professional guidance.
Filling out Form I-751 accurately and comprehensively is of utmost importance. Minor errors or omissions can lead to delays or complications in the processing of your petition. Be sure to follow the instructions provided with the form and ensure that all required information is completed accurately.
Attend an Interview
As part of the process to remove conditions, USCIS may request an interview to further assess the authenticity of your marriage. This interview is a pivotal step in the evaluation process, and you should be prepared to respond to questions about your relationship and provide additional evidence.
Here are key aspects to consider.
- Review Your Documentation
Familiarize yourself with the supporting documentation you submitted with your petition. The immigration officer may ask questions related to the information in the documentation. Being well-prepared ensures that you can provide coherent and consistent answers that are consistent with what is presented in the documentation.
- Practice Interview Questions
Take time to practice answering common interview questions related to your marriage. By rehearsing your responses, you can build confidence and composure, helping you perform well during the actual interview.
Common questions may cover topics like how you met, your daily routines, and your future plans as a married couple.
- Attend the Interview Together
If you filed Form I-751 jointly with your spouse, both of you must attend the interview. During the interview, USCIS officers may ask questions of each spouse separately and compare the answers to ensure consistency. By being present together, you can demonstrate unity and strengthen the verification of your marriage.
The interview serves as a final check to verify the authenticity of your marriage and the truthfulness of your petition. Honesty and clear communication are key to a successful interview. Be candid in your responses, and be prepared to provide additional evidence or clarification if requested by the immigration officer.
Sidebar: When Can You Avoid the I-751 Interview?
USCIS officers may opt to waive the interview if they are confident in several key factors:
- They have adequate evidence within the record to verify the legitimacy of your marriage, and there is no indication that the marriage was solely entered into to circumvent US immigration laws;
- USCIS has previously interviewed the principal petitioner during the consular or adjustment interview process;
- The officers are satisfied that there is no evidence or indication of fraud or misrepresentation present in either the Form I-751 petition or the supporting documentation provided.
The case does not involve intricate or complex facts or any other red flags that necessitate an interview to resolve;
- In other words, you can avoid an interview if the steps preceding the interview and the process to get a conditional green card in the first place were flawless and uneventful.
Receive Your Permanent Green Card
If USCIS is satisfied with your documentation and the interview, your conditions will be removed, and you will get a permanent green card. This permanent resident card is a significant milestone in your immigration journey, offering security, stability, and access to more social services during your time in the United States.
As mentioned previously, this permanent green card is typically valid for ten years. As a permanent resident, you have the freedom to live and work in the United States without the fear of losing your status. You also have the option to travel abroad and return to the US as a permanent resident.
After living here as a permanent resident for five years, you may become eligible for US citizenship. The duration is lessened to three years if your spouse is a US citizen. Naturalization is an important step for those seeking full integration into American society and enjoying the rights and benefits of being a US citizen.
The process of removing conditions on family-based visas is a meticulous and well-defined path that demands attention to detail, thorough preparation, and a commitment to maintaining the authenticity of your marriage. It is intricate but organized and requires your single-minded focus because there is simply no room for error. Go over your petition and supporting documentation over and over again until you are satisfied that a USCIS officer won’t find a reason to reject your petition and would, at the very least, call you in for an interview.
The Wrap Up
Do you have a conventional marriage or require a waiver due to divorce, abuse, or extreme hardship? Following these steps will help you successfully transition to a permanent green card, ensuring a brighter and more secure future for you and your family in the US.
By adhering to the procedures and preparing diligently, you can ensure a smooth transition to permanent resident status, granting you the security and freedom to build a fulfilling life in the West.
If you need any legal help going over the steps or crossing your hurdles, don’t hesitate to reach out to our immigration lawyer for assistance. Attorney Ingrid Borges Perez’s immigrant experience has motivated her to help scores of people get green cards through family and remove conditions on marriage-based green cards.
Get in touch for her help and assistance.