If you’re reading this blog post, congratulations on your marriage and getting your conditional green card! However, you’re not done filing forms with USCIS yet. To prevent marriage fraud, USCIS is requiring another hurdle for you – filing form I-751, Petition to Remove Condition. This petition process is USCIS’ way of checking in on you to make sure that you have (or had) a legitimate marriage.
When you got your marriage-based green card, you may have noticed that the expiration date is only two years after its issuance date. This is because, under the “Marriage Fraud Act,” green cards based on marriages that are under two years must be a “condition” green card, with a two-year expiration date. Your status is that of a conditional resident. To remove the condition of your status, you need to file form I-751, Petition to Remove Condition, within 90 days of the expiration date of your green card. The I-751 must be filed within this 90-day window. USCIS will commonly send a letter to remind you of this filing deadline, but not getting this notice is not an excuse for failing to file.
The I-751 is a joint filing and must be signed by both the conditional resident and the conditional resident’s petitioning spouse. In the I-751 petition, evidence of the bona fide nature of your marriage must be included. This evidence may be your children’s birth certificates, rental agreements, photographs, joint bank statements, letters from friends and family, and any other item that tends to prove that you had a valid marriage.
The filing fee (as of April 23, 2020) is $595, plus an $85 biometrics fee, for a total of $680. USCIS is currently taking a long time to adjudicate these petitions (at least 18 months). After you file your I-751, you can expect to receive a receipt notice that also serves as an automatic extension of the validity period of your green card for an additional 18 months. It is important to keep this original notice in a safe place, as it is your proof that your green card still allows you to travel or be employed.
Our office will help you prepare and file the necessary form and assist with the selection of the best evidence to show that your marriage is as true and genuine as you know it is.
Late filing: Filing after the filing date is not necessarily fatal to your petition. If your failure to file was through no fault of your own, then you may still file Form I-751 along with an explanation about why your filing was late. We can help to explain your situation in the best manner possible, while also demonstrating the bona fide nature of your marriage.
Divorce: Divorce, as well, is not fatal to your petition. The laws that created the I-751 are not intended to punish unlucky marriages. Rather, they are intended to ferret out fraudulent marriages. If you have divorced, you will need to put your best foot forward. Even though your marriage has ended, the same evidence of a valid and good faith marriage listed above can still show that you intended to enter into a valid and good faith marriage at its inception. Even if you have only a few items that show that your marriage was legitimate, our office can help put together a convincing evidentiary package with legal arguments, to demonstrate the validity of your marriage.
Unwilling spouse: In some extreme situations, the U.S. spouse may not be willing to sign the form. In many such cases, the conditional resident may be suffering abuse or extreme mental cruelty from the U.S. spouse. In these instances, the foreign national spouse may file the I-751 on his/her own. However, additional evidence should be provided to demonstrate that the conditional resident suffered abuse or cruelty. Our office can provide you with the resources to show the abuse or cruelty you have suffered and help tell your story in the most convincing way possible.
Naturalization to become a U.S. citizen
Due to the long processing times associated with the I-751, conditional residents are commonly eligible to file to become a citizen before the I-751 has been approved. Conditional and permanent residents who are married to and living with a U.S. citizen spouse may file for naturalization for U.S. citizenship starting 90 days before three years of continuous residence, which usually is the third anniversary of being granted their green card. Evidence that you have a bona fide marriage is also needed when applying for permanent residency in this timeframe. Our office also helps conditional residents apply for their naturalization, assembling both the documents necessary to show eligibility for citizenship and to prove the ongoing validity of your marriage.