Because there is a fear that a person may marry a U.S. citizen or green card holder to evade immigration laws, permanent residence status is conditional when a foreign resident marries a U.S. citizen or green card holder.
If you received a green card with a two-year expiration date on it, you are a conditional resident. Conditional resident status isn’t renewable, and the expiration date applies not only to the card but to your status in the United States. If you don’t act within two years to have the condition removed —that is, to convert to permanent residence—you will lose your right to remain in the United States. You could be placed into removal proceedings before an immigration judge and ultimately be deported.
The eligibility process for removing conditional resident status in the U.S. depends on the basis upon which you received it, either as:
- An alien entrepreneur, or
- The spouse of a U.S. citizen
The spousal requirement depends on whether your marriage was less than two years old when you received your residency or entered the U.S. on an immigrant visa.
How is Conditional Resident Status Removed for Entrepreneur Immigrants?
A conditional green card for entrepreneurs or investors lasts for two years. Within 90 days before the green card expires, entrepreneurs must petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to remove the conditions.
A petition to USCIS will intend to prove that you still deserve your status, and it should be made permanent because:
- Your investment in the commercial enterprise by which you obtained your status was not intended solely as a means of evading U.S. immigration laws
- You invested the requisite capital
- You are sustaining active participation with this enterprise
- Your enterprise generated employment for at least ten U.S. workers.
During the 90 days before the two-year deadline arrives, you must complete the Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on USCIS Form I-829.
If you fail to submit the form and documents on time, or USCIS refuses to remove the conditions on your residence status, removal proceedings will likely be started against you, potentially forcing you to leave the country.
See an immigration attorney for a full case analysis. If your failure to file Form I-829 was for a good cause and due to extenuating circumstances, an immigration attorney might be able to convince USCIS to let you file late.
How is Conditional Resident Status Removed Based on Marriage?
Two years of conditional resident status is given to immigrants whose marriage to their U.S. spouse was less than two years old at the time they were approved for U.S. residence by USCIS or entered the U.S. after receiving an immigrant visa from a U.S. consulate in another country.
The purpose of this two-year condition is so that the couple can prove to USCIS for a second time that their marriage is real. The U.S. government wants a second look at whether the couple married simply to gain immigration status for the immigrant.
You were likely asked to provide documents and other proof that your marriage was legitimate when you obtained your conditional resident status. During this stage of the process, you’ll have to provide more similar documentation covering the two-year period.
The procedure for removing the conditions on your residence is to file USCIS Form I-751 Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence along with documentary proof that you are still eligible.
To be eligible for approval without having to make use of an exception, you must remain married to the same spouse for the two-year period. The marriage must have been entered into in good faith, not to avoid immigration laws.
At least 90 days before the conditional status expires, both spouses must complete the Form I-751. Once the petition is approved, the condition is removed, and you will receive permanent residence status. If you don’t complete the application, you can be placed into removal proceedings in immigration court, lose your status, and ultimately have to leave the United States.
See an attorney immediately if you experience this situation. If your failure to file was for good cause and extenuating circumstances, an immigration lawyer might be able to convince USCIS to let you file Form I-751 late.
What Does USCIS Do After You File for Removal of the Conditions on Your Residence?
After USCIS receives your petition to remove the conditions on residence and confirms that it is complete, it will send you a receipt notice. The receipt notice is an important document confirming that you are still in valid immigration status while awaiting the USCIS decision. Make a copy and don’t lose it; you’ll need to show it to employers or when you travel because your actual resident card will have expired by this point.
Later, you will be called in for biometrics and fingerprinting so that your record can be checked again. You might be called in for an interview. After that, USCIS will make its decision on whether to grant you U.S. permanent residence.
Are All Marriages Conditional?
If you have been married for less than two years on the day you were given permanent residence, your status as a permanent resident will be conditional. The day permanent residence status is granted will either be the day you are lawfully admitted into the United States or when you adjust your immigration status.
What Is Needed to Remove the Condition?
To remove the conditional status on your permanent residency, you and your spouse will have to apply during the 90 days before your second anniversary as a conditional resident, which happens to be the expiration date on your green card.
What if I Am No Longer Married?
Generally, if you are no longer married, you can request a waiver of the joint filing provision. This includes:
- If you are a widow or widower of a marriage that was entered into in good faith
- If you are divorced, so long as the marriage was entered into in good faith
- If you or your child were battered or subject to extreme hardship by your spouse
What Will Happen if I Fail to Remove My Conditional Status?
If the termination of your conditional resident status would cause extreme hardship to you, you may be exempt from this rule. However, if you fail to remove your conditional status, you risk losing your status and may face deportation. If you were late in requesting the conditional status removal, you are permitted to explain why you complied with the requirements at a deportation hearing.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
An attorney experienced in immigration law can help you and your spouse prepare for the removal of your conditional resident status. If you are no longer married or you failed to remove your conditional status when required, an immigration attorney can help you navigate the exceptions to the immigration laws and regulations.
Use LegalMatch to find the right immigration attorney for your needs. The immigration process is complicated and time-consuming to go through. LegalMatch can help you find an attorney who can handle your immigration process. Schedule a free consultation with an attorney near you by using LegalMatch today.