In 2019, there were nearly 14 million green card holders or lawful permanent residents in the USA. Many of these lawful permanent residents were foreign nationals who moved their residence to the US because of marriage or because they were investors. Many received a Conditional Permanent Residence Card – or a Conditional Green Card.
Conditional Green Cardholders will need to undergo a “testing” period of two years to ensure that their marriage was bona fided and was not entered into to bypass US immigration laws. If you or your spouse hold a Conditional Green card, here is what you need to know about the process of removing the present conditions on your Permanent Resident Status.
Conditional Green Cards: An Overview
Unlike Permanent Resident Cards or standard Green Cards, Conditional Green Cards are only valid for two years. These cards are granted to those who are looking to permanently move their residence to the USA and were granted under the following categories:
- Marriage-based Green Cards – If the marriage is under two years old before an application to adjust status was filed with the government
- Fifth Preference Employment-Based Green Card – For entrepreneurs looking to launch a commercial enterprise
The reason why these cards are granted as “conditional” is that the applicant needs to undergo a 2-year probation period. This system is used to ensure that:
- Marriage-based Green Cards – The marriage is real and not performed to bypass US immigration laws
- Fifth Preference Employment-Based Green Card – After two years, the investor has maintained the company’s ownership, has invested a minimum of $1,800,000 million US dollars, and has created at least 10 full-time job positions for US workers
Removing the Conditions on a Conditional Green Card
If you are a Conditional Green Card holder, you need to be aware that this card cannot be simply renewed. The only way to extend your lawful stay as a resident in the US is to file a petition to remove the conditions on your Green Card.
Bear in mind that if this petition isn’t filed or the conditions are not removed, you will become removable from the US as an unlawful resident.
When To File Your Petition?
If you wish to file a petition to get the conditions on your Conditional Green Card removed, you will need to submit your request within 90 days before the expiry date on your Green Card. Depending on your Conditional Green Card type, you will need to file your petition by submitting the Form I-751 or, if you are an EB-5 investor visa holder with a conditional green card, you will need to file Form I-829
How Long Does It Take To Get a Response?
If your Conditional Green Card is about to expire but you have filed a petition, USCIS will issue a receipt notice once your request has been received. This notice will extend the validity of your Conditional Green Card while USCIS considers your application. Although USCIS typically takes 1-2 years to decide a petition to remove conditions, do not worry because, during that time, you will continue to have conditional lawful permanent resident status.
In the past, the receipt notice would extend the Conditional Green Card’s validity by 12-18 months. However, in September 2021, USCIS modified its processing times to reflect the changing demand – also due to the influence of Covid-19 on immigration timelines.
So, if you have properly filled the relevant petition form, the USCIS notice receipt will serve as valid “evidence of continued status for up to 24 months past the expiration date on the Green Card.”
What Can You Do While Your Application Is Pending
While your application is pending, you can use the receipt notice issued by the USCIS to prove that you have Conditional Green Card rights. During this time, you can continue to work and travel in the USA. In addition, with the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney, such as Reiner & Pleva, PLLC, you should also be able to travel outside of the United States.
If you are not sure what your rights are when your Conditional Green Card is expired, when your I-751 Petition is pending, or when you are using the receipt notice as evidence of status, don’t hesitate to contact a specialized NYC immigration lawyer at the LAw Office of Robert J. Maher, PC
What if I Divorce Before Submitting Form I-751 “Application to Remove Conditions?”
If you are a conditional permanent resident and you get divorced before you submit the I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, it can complicate your situation.
Normally, when you file an I-751 petition jointly with your spouse, you are requesting that the conditions on your residency be removed based on the fact that you entered into a bona fide marriage. If you get divorced before you file the I-751, you will no longer be able to file jointly with your spouse. In this case, you may be able to file the I-751 petition by yourself and request a waiver of the joint filing requirement.
To do this, you will need to demonstrate that your marriage was entered into in good faith but has since been terminated through divorce. You may also need to provide evidence that your marriage was legitimate and not entered into for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.
If you are in this situation, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney. An attorney can help you gather the necessary evidence and prepare a strong I-751 petition with a waiver of the joint filing requirement.