Conditional status, also referred to as a “conditional permanent resident”, is the immigration status afforded to foreign-born residents who have entered into the United States by obtaining a visa through marriage.
As its title implies, foreign-born residents who have been granted conditional status are required to apply for an adjustment of status after a period of two years. If a foreign-born resident fails to file a petition to remove or adjust their conditional status once these two years have passed, then they may be at risk for a number of consequences. These may include:
- Losing their lawful status;
- Automatically terminating their conditional status;
- Receiving a Notice to Appear (“NTA”) before an immigration court for a hearing; and
- Having to leave the United States and re-start the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident.
The main reason that U.S. immigration laws impose a conditional status on foreign-born residents who are married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is to prevent immigrants from entering into a marriage based on fraudulent intentions.
Couples who marry for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card are committing a form of immigration fraud known as marriage or green card fraud. Thus, by enforcing conditional status regulations, lawmakers hope to deter non-U.S. residents from using marriage as a vehicle to gain unlawful entry and residency into the United States.
Thus, if you are a foreign-based resident who is living in the United States on a marriage visa and need assistance with removing or adjusting your conditional status, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local immigration lawyer for further legal advice on such matters. Again, failing to adjust or remove a conditional permanent resident status can have serious repercussions.
What is Removal of Conditions? Who is Eligible for Removal of Conditions?
As discussed above, an immigrant who enters the United States through a marriage visa is deemed to have “conditions” placed on their permanent resident status. In other words, the clock on their two-year time frame starts to tick the moment they enter the United States and are granted temporary residency as a conditional permanent resident.
Again, this means that they will need to apply for an adjustment or removal of these conditions after their two-year period expires.
An adjustment or removal of conditions is a legal process wherein a non-U.S. resident spouse files a petition to remove their conditional status and have it adjusted to that of a lawful permanent resident. Immigrants who obtain a lawful permanent resident status are eligible to apply for a permanent resident card (i.e., a green card). Green card holders are afforded many of the same rights as those that are granted to U.S. citizens.
While conditional permanent residents are also eligible for a green card, their card will expire after only two years, whereas those who are green card holders and have lawful permanent resident status will not need to renew their card for another ten years.
In order to achieve this status, one of the main factors that a non-U.S. citizen spouse will need to prove is that they did not marry a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident with the intent to evade U.S. immigration laws and/or immigration officers.
A non-U.S. resident spouse will most likely be eligible to apply for a removal or an adjustment of their conditional status if they are able to prove the following:
- That they are still married to the same U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident two years after securing a conditional permanent resident status;
- That they entered into the marriage in “good faith” and not with the intent or purpose to circumvent U.S. immigration laws;
- That they can provide evidence that proves that the marriage was entered in good faith through documents, such as:
- Financial records which demonstrate joint ownership of assets (e.g. joint savings and checking accounts, joint credit card statements, joint insurance policies, etc.);
- Birth certificates of any children born during the marriage;
- Mortgage contracts or leases that show joint ownership or occupancy of a shared marital residence; and/or
- Any other documents that can be used as evidence to support and establish that the relationship between the parties is genuine; and/or
- That termination of the current resident status would cause exceptional or extreme hardship on a family member who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States or a U.S. citizen and is either the spouse, parent, or child of the conditional permanent resident who is applying for an adjustment or removal of their conditional status.
Conditional permanent residents who are applying for one of the above reasons must file a joint petition with their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse if the couple is still married. On the other hand, if the marital couple is no longer married, then the conditional permanent resident spouse may file the petition without their spouse for any of the following reasons:
- If the conditional permanent resident spouse entered into the marriage in “good faith”, but the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent spouse has since passed away;
- If they entered into the marriage in good faith, but have been subjected to extreme cruelty or domestic violence carried out by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse; and/or
- If they entered into the marriage in good faith, but the marriage has since been terminated due to annulment or divorce.
In addition, the child of a married couple in which one of the parents is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and the other holds conditional permanent resident status may also file a petition to remove or adjust their conditional status if:
- They have a valid reason as to why they were not included on the application filed by their parents; or
- Their parents entered into the marriage in good faith, but then they or the conditional permanent resident spouse became subject to domestic violence, extreme cruelty, or spousal abuse carried out by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse.
Lastly, it is important to note that each of the above categories will most likely require slightly different forms of evidence or proof to support an application for removal of a non-U.S. resident’s conditional status.
How Much Does it Cost to File for Removal of Conditions? How Long Will it Take?
As previously mentioned, a petition for removal of conditional status must be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) agency before a non-U.S. citizen’s conditional status expires. This means that an individual with this status will need to file a petition within 90 days before their two-year green card period lapses.
In order to petition for removal of a conditional status, the applicant will need to fill out and submit Form I-175, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, which can be found on the website for the USCIS. Along with the petition, the conditional permanent resident will also need to attach any supporting documents required to show proof or forms requested by the agency.
In addition, conditional permanent residents who are filing Form I-175, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, will also need to pay a filing fee of $595 USD. Depending on a person’s situation, they may also have to pay an extra fee of $85 USD for the biometric services fee if an appointment is required.
Those who are filing a petition on behalf of a conditional permanent resident spouse or a dependent child will also need to pay the $85 biometrics fee for each of those applicants. It should be noted that the amount of each of these fees will be subject to change over time, but are current as of March 2021.
The process to remove conditions on residence can last from anywhere between several months to up to a year to receive a final decision. However, the length of time for such applications may vary on a case by case basis since each individual case may have different background factors. For example, some immigrants will need to schedule and attend an interview with an immigration office, while others may not receive a request for an interview.
Another obstacle that may cause a delay in the process is if the parties need to appeal the initial decision issued by the USCIS or an immigration court. An applicant will have up to 30 days to appeal a denial for removal of conditions. If the applicant fails to file an appeal, they may be subject to removal from the United States.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Removal of Conditions?
The process to remove conditions on a residency can be a confusing and overwhelming experience. It often requires complying with strict legal procedures and providing substantial forms of proof. If an applicant fails to produce evidence and their application is denied, this can lead to serious consequences, such as being removed from the United States or being charged with committing marriage fraud.
Thus, if you are unsure of how to apply for a petition for removal of conditions on residency or are experiencing issues with this process, then you should contact a local immigration lawyer for further legal guidance as soon as possible. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you complete and file Form I-175. Your lawyer can also review all of your paperwork and can make sure that the evidence you submit will adequately support your petition.
Additionally, if you are asked to attend a hearing before an immigration law court, your lawyer can provide legal representation in court or at any other proceeding related to the immigration matter.