When you get a green card through marriage, it comes with conditions attached – namely, you must remain married to the same person for at least two years before you can apply for a permanent green card. But how do you remove conditions on a green card through marriage, and what happens if you don’t? This guide explains.
Conditional Green Cards: What You Need to Know
Most people who receive a green card through marriage get a conditional green card (though not everyone does; see the following section for more information on who gets a conditional green card and who doesn’t).
You must remove the conditions on your green card before you can receive a permanent one. Many people choose to work with a Port Chester immigration attorney to remove the conditions from their green cards.
Who Gets a Conditional Green Card, and Who Gets One Without Conditions?
You receive a conditional green card if you marry a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (under certain circumstances) or if you’re a businessperson who got a green card to invest in a U.S. business.
Conditions for Green Card Through Marriage
If your marriage is less than two years old at the time you arrive in the U.S. or at the time U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves you for a green card, you get conditional residency – you have a conditional green card.
However, if you’ve been married longer than two years, you don’t need a conditional green card. You’ll receive permanent residency with no conditions attached.
Conditions for Investor Green Cards
Investors who qualify for a green card through the EB-5 Investor Program receive a conditional green card. If you participated in the EB-5 program, you must remove the conditions before your green card becomes permanent.
Note: Permanent residency doesn’t expire, but you will need to replace your green card every ten years. When you replace it, you don’t need to reapply or change your status in any way – you simply need a new card.
What is Adjustment of Status?
Adjustment of status is the process you must go through when you want to obtain a green card. For example, if you’re in the U.S. on a fiancé visa when you marry your spouse, you need to adjust your status to conditional resident. In fact, any time you apply for a green card from within the U.S., you need to adjust your status – even if you married outside the country and travel to the United States to live. That’s because initially, you enter the United States on a visa; you need to adjust your status from visa-holder to conditional resident or permanent resident.
(If you’re currently outside the U.S. and apply for a green card, you don’t need to adjust your status. You simply need to apply for a green card.)
The Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Conditions on Your Green Card
Many people choose to work with a Port Chester immigration attorney to remove the conditions on their green cards. That’s because the process requires a pretty significant amount of paperwork – and because in order to successfully remove the conditions on a green card, you must show USCIS that you held up your end of the bargain.
The requirements you must meet (and prove to USCIS that you met) depend on whether you received a green card based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or you received it based on your investment in a U.S. business.
In other words, it’s your responsibility to prove to the U.S. government that you didn’t only marry your spouse to get an immigration benefit. You must also fill out and file the appropriate paperwork and provide supporting documentation.
Steps to Removing Conditions if You Received a Green Card Through Marriage
If you received a green card through marriage, you must petition USCIS to remove the conditions within 90 days of your two-year green card anniversary. Your two-year green card anniversary is exactly two years after the government gave you conditional resident status. These are the steps to removing conditions from your green card through marriage:
- Ensure that you’re eligible.
- Determine whether you need a waiver to file a petition without your spouse.
- Fill out and file Form I-751 with USCIS.
- Attend your interview.
Here’s a closer look at each.
Step #1 to Removing Conditions From a Green Card Through Marriage: Check Eligibility
Typically, you’re only eligible to remove the conditions on permanent residence if you’re still married to the same U.S. resident or lawful permanent resident. (If you have a conditional green card based on a parent’s marriage, your parent must still be married to the same person.)
Step #2 to Removing Conditions From a Green Card Through Marriage: Apply for a Waiver, if Necessary
If you’re not still married to the same person you were married to when you initially applied for your green card, you may be eligible for a waiver. Generally, you may get a waiver if your spouse (or stepparent) is or was a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and:
- They are now deceased and you (or your parent) entered the marriage in good faith
- You married in good faith but your (or your parent’s) marriage ended through divorce or you had it annulled
- You married in good faith, but you or your child were subjected to extreme cruelty or were battered by your spouse (through the VAWA provision)
- If your removal from the U.S. Would result in extreme hardship
If you believe you qualify for a waiver, your immigration attorney can help you apply for one.
Step #3 to Removing Conditions From a Green Card Through Marriage: Fill Out and File the Paperwork
In order to remove the conditions on your green card, you must file Form I-751 with USCIS. Your immigration attorney can fill out and file this petition for you.
Step #4 to Removing Conditions From a Green Card Through Marriage: Attend Your Interview
Most people have to participate in an interview with a USCIS official to remove the conditions from their green cards. Your attorney can advise you on what to expect during your interview, as well as go over your petition with you to ensure you’re familiar with all the answers you initially provided. During your interview, the USCIS official will review your petition and may ask you additional questions to determine whether your marriage is legitimate.
Steps to Removing Conditions if You Received a Green Card Through the EB-5 Investor Program
If you received a conditional green card because you’re an investor who agreed to invest a certain amount of capital in a United States company, your process for removal of conditions looks like this:
- Fill out and file Form I-829 with supporting evidence.
- Extend your conditional permanent residence, if necessary.
Here’s a closer look at each.
Step #1 to Removing Conditions From an Investor Green Card: File Your Paperwork and Supporting Documentation
The first step in removing conditions from an investor green card is to file Form I-829 with USCIS. Your attorney can fill out and file this form for you.
You need to include supporting documentation with this form, including evidence that you:
- Made the investment or are actively in the process of investing the required amount of capital in a U.S. company
- Sustained the investment throughout the whole period of your conditional residence
- Created at least ten full-time positions
Supporting documentation may include things like bank statements, invoices and receipts, business licenses, contracts, and federal or state income tax returns or quarterly tax statements. If you’re not sure what type of documentation to include, your attorney can give you additional guidance.
Step #2 to Removing Conditions From an Investor Green Card: Extend Your Conditional Permanent Residence
Sometimes it takes USCIS a while to process Form I-829, but you may be able to extend your conditional permanent residence status while the form is pending. Your attorney can help you with your extension if you need one. After you receive Form I-797 from USCIS, which tells you that the agency has received your petition, you may also be eligible for an Alien Documentation, Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) stamp in your passport – and that enables you to travel outside the U.S. (if necessary).
FAQ on Removing Conditions From a Green Card
Check out these commonly asked questions about removal of conditions. If you don’t see the answer you need here, please feel free to call our office at 914-481-8822 for a consultation; we can give you the guidance you need.
Do You Only Need to Remove Conditions Once?
You only need to remove the conditions on your green card one time. After you have removed the conditions, you receive a permanent green card and are no longer a conditional permanent resident. You do, however, need to renew your permanent green card every ten years. But don’t worry – even if you don’t renew your card, you’re still a lawful permanent resident. Your status doesn’t expire; only your card does.
Can You Renew a Conditional Green Card?
You can’t renew a conditional green card. You can only remove conditions from it, which turns it into a permanent green card.
Can You Remove Conditions if Your Spouse Doesn’t Want You To?
It is possible to remove the conditions from your green card if your spouse doesn’t want you to. However, you’ll need a waiver from USCIS. Your attorney can help you get this waiver if you qualify for it.
When Do You Have to Remove Conditions on Your Green Card?
You must remove the conditions on your green card within 90 days of your two-year green card anniversary.
What Happens if You Don’t Remove Conditions on Your Green Card?
If you fail to remove the conditions on your green card, your lawful permanent resident status expires. At that point, you can be deported from the United States.
Do You Need to Remove Conditions if You’ve Been Married Longer Than Two Years?
If you were married longer than two years when you petitioned for your original green card, you won’t have a conditional green card. That means you don’t have to apply to remove any conditions – there aren’t any to remove.
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About Removing Conditions on Your Green Card?
If you need to talk to an immigration attorney, we may be able to help you. Call our office at 914-481-8822 to schedule a consultation with an experienced, knowledgeable immigration attorney who can answer your questions and give you the legal advice you need.