A green card is also known as a permanent visa. It is an immigration document that permits an individual to live within the United States. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) oversees green cards. There are different categories of green cards for which an individual may qualify. There is a limit, or quota, on the number of green cards issued for individuals who fall into each category. The green card categories include:

  • Immediate family members visas;
  • Marriage visas;
  • Work visas; and
  • Long term illegal residents.

Immediate family members of a United States citizen may qualify for a green card, or visa. This category is for individuals who are:

  • A spouse of a United States citizen;
  • An unmarried child under 21 years of age with one United States citizen parent;
  • Parents of a United States citizen under 21 years of age;
  • Step-children or step-parents of a United States citizen, depending on the age of the children; and
  • An individual who adopted or was adopted by a United States citizen, depending on the age of the child at the time of the adoption.

A marriage visa has specific procedural rules. The BCIS may grant conditional permanent residence for individuals who are married to United States citizens during the time the green card application process is completed.

A work visa is for those individuals who are moving to the United States because of a particular skill for employment. Individuals may qualify for a green card if they fall into a preference category established by the U.S. government. These categories are limited and specific regarding the criteria required to receive a green card. In addition, a quota is established for each of the preference categories.

Long term illegal residents are individuals who have resided illegally in the United States for an extended period of time. They may be eligible for a green card if their immediate family members are United States citizens or their immediate family members would suffer undue hardship if the illegal resident was forced to leave.

It is important to seek the assistance of an attorney prior to attempting to obtain a green card. Attempting to obtain a green card may bring the individual’s illegal residency to the attention of the BCIS and they may be forced into deportation proceedings instead of receiving a green card.

What is a Conditional Green Card?

A conditional green card is a green card that is issued in situations where an individual is granted conditional permanent residence. This is generally in connection with green cards that are issued in connection with a fiancé visa, a marriage visa, or certain employment visas. For example, when a foreign national marries a United States citizen, they are often granted a conditional green card. After this, they are required to file for an adjustment of status so they may be classified as lawful permanent residents.

An adjustment of status is a procedure allowing foreign nationals who are already residing in the United States to apply for lawful permanent status. An adjustment of status is usually applied for by an individual who is in the United States illegally. It can be for a number of reasons, including overstaying their visa. This procedure permits the individual to apply for a green card without being required to return to their country of origin and restart the residency application process.

What is Removal of Conditions and Who is Eligible?

An individual who entered the United States through a marriage based visa is said to have conditions on their permanent resident status. This means the individual is granted conditional permanent resident status on the date they entered the United States.

Removal of conditions is a process in which the non-citizen spouse is granted full permanent resident status. In order to have conditions removed, the individual must show they did not marry their spouse with the intent to evade United States immigration laws or agents.

A non-citizen spouse may be eligible to apply for the removal of conditions if they meet one of the following requirements:

  • The individual is still married to the same permanent resident or United States citizen 2 years after being granted conditional status;
  • The individual is a child and has a valid reason that they were not included in their parents’ application;
  • The individual entered into the marriage in good faith, but then later became subject to a divorce or annulment;
  • The marriage was entered into in good faith, but the non-citizen spouse or their child became subject to domestic violence or spousal abuse by the United States citizen spouse; or
  • Terminating the current residency status would cause extreme hardship to the applicant.

Different types of proof may be required by immigration authorities for each of the categories discussed above.

How Long Do Conditional Green Cards Last?

A conditional green card is typically valid for up to 2 years. In order for the conditions to be removed, the individual must file a petition with immigration authorities. The petition must be filed within the 90 day period prior to the expiration of the card. This process typically involves filing for I-751, or the Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.

How Long does it Take to Remove Conditions?

Removal of residency conditions must be petitioned for during the 90-day time period prior to the green card expiration date. This is typically 2 years following the first issuance of a green card. The applicant will file the request using the USCIS form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence.

The filing fee for Form I-751 is $505.00. There may also be additional fees for things such as biometric fingerprint scans, if requested. Immigration fees may be subject to change.

The removal of residency conditions may take several months, depending on the facts of each case. An applicant may be required to attend hearings before an immigration judge or give interviews regarding the marriage. These proceedings may require the assistance of a lawyer, especially if the green card holder must appear in immigration court.

In some cases, an application for removal of conditions that is denied may be appealed. An appeal must be requested within 30 days after the denial of the removal of conditions. The appeal should be processed promptly, as the individual may be subject to a removal, or deportation, order if the Form I-751 is denied.

What if I Fail to Remove the Conditions in the Given Time Period?

A conditional permanent resident card is non-renewable. If an individual fails to remove the conditions within the allowed time period, it will result in the loss of permanent resident status.

Therefore, a conditional green card holder must ensure the conditions are removed within the proper time frame. This is extremely important, especially if the individual intends to be outside the country for a period of time close to the deadlines.

Contacting a Lawyer for Conditional Green Card Issues

A conditional green card has very specific instructions and requirements. Failing to follow these instructions can negatively affect your immigration status and citizenship eligibility if you hold a conditional green card.

It is essential to contact an experienced immigration lawyer for any green card issues. A lawyer can help review your green card application as well as represent you during any immigration proceedings, if necessary.