Conditional residence is a type of permanent residence typically granted to either the spouses of US citizens or lawful permanent residents, or to specific investors or entrepreneurs. Your permanent residence status is labeled as conditional because you are given 2 years to meet specific criteria. Failing to do so will see your green card expire and could result in your expulsion from the United States. Conditional green cards are most commonly assigned to someone who obtained citizenship through their citizen spouse after less than 2 years of marriage.
If you are considering applying for U.S. citizenship, are already in the process of doing so, or need assistance removing the conditions from your permanent residence status, contact a qualified attorney at The Law Office of Joseph A. Dennis. Immigration laws in the United States are incredibly complex, and attempting to navigate them on your own is likely to see you waste time following incorrect procedures at best, and facing removal proceedings at worst. Our New York City immigration lawyers know the steps that need to be taken in order to secure your legal permanent status. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial case consultation to see what we can do to help.
What is a Conditional Green Card?
A conditional green card grants permanent residence status to the holder, but with an important caveat. These cards are only valid for two years and are non-renewable. In order to get around this and obtain a standard 10-year green card, you will be required to apply for the removal of conditions of your residence.
While your conditional residency is active you are permitted to work and live in the United States no different from those that hold a 10-year green card. It is important to keep in mind that there is a 90-day period before the expiration of your conditional green card in which you will need to remove your conditions and get your legal immigrant status adjusted.
If you proceed through the proper steps to have your conditions removed and proceed with an adjustment of status you will be issued a renewable green card that is valid for 10 years at a time. This will also apply to any minor children holding a conditional resident card that was included in the same petition.
Can You Change Conditional Residence to Permanent Residence?
Conditional green card holders are absolutely able to change their immigration status to that of a permanent resident. You will be required to remove the conditions from your residency status during the 90-day period before your 2-year residency comes to an end. Take care with this period of time, as filing early will have your application returned, and filing late will result in it being denied. After your petition for removal of conditions is filed and accepted you will be issued a standard 10-year green card to replace the non-renewable 2-year card you held while you were a conditional resident.
How Do You Remove Conditions From a Green Card?
The process for removing conditions from your residency status differs depending on the reason you have been given conditional residency.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will issue a conditional green card to you if you are granted permanent residence status while your marriage is less than two years old. This card will be given to you the day you legally enter the country with an immigrant visa or receive a status adjustment to permanent resident status.
The primary reason for marriage-based green cards being conditional is to prevent marriage fraud and similar green card scams. The conditional period is essentially 2-year probation in which you and your resident spouse are able to document your marital relationship. There is a 90-day period at the end of your conditional status in which you will file an I-751 petition to remove conditions on residence, as well as supporting evidence and documentation to demonstrate the legitimacy of your marriage.
It is important that you take care to file your Form I-751 correctly the first time, as mistakes can result in delays in the process or even outright rejection. Below are some of the most important things to be aware of when filing Form I-751:
- Timing is everything. When you file your I-751 you need to ensure that you do so within the 90-day time period prior to the expiration of your conditional residency. Applications that are filed too early will be returned unreviewed, and those that are filed too late will be denied unless you can provide proof of an extreme hardship that caused the delay.
- Form I-751 has a joint filing requirement. This means that you and your spouse will be required to complete the form together, and both of you will need to sign it before it is filed.
- Evidence is key. It will have been 2 years since you were granted permanent residency. During this time there should be new evidence to demonstrate that your marriage is real. This could include photographs, children born during the past two years, financial statements from this time period, etc. It is not a bad idea to include evidence of the same type you used on your initial green card application, but the evidence you offer now should be new. Recycling the same information you have already submitted is unlikely to go well for you.
In addition to the above, you need to send a copy of your conditional green card, front and back, with the $680 filing fee.
USCIS also grants conditional green cards to individuals who make financial investments in the United States. You will be issued your conditional green card on the day you lawfully enter the United States and may remain as a legal permanent resident for the entire 2-year period.
In order to have your conditional resident status adjusted to a permanent legal resident, you will need to file Form I-829 (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions). This form must be filed in the 90-day window before your two-year conditional residency expires.
What Happens if You Don't Complete Your Conditions by the Time Your Green Card Expires?
If you fail to remove the conditions on your residency status, you will no longer be permitted to live within the United States once your green card expires. This means that you will face the very real likelihood of going through deportation proceedings, or at a minimum will lead to you being prevented from reentering the country if you leave.
Work With an Experienced Immigration Lawyer
Immigration law is an incredibly complex category of United States law. It is all too common for applications to be delayed or even rejected due to misunderstandings or simple mistakes. One of the best steps you can take to protect yourself from these types of issues is hiring a talented and experienced green card attorney.
At The Law Office Of Joseph A Dennis we know what is required in a wide range of immigration cases, and can help steer you toward solutions you may not have even realized were available to you. With a matter as important as your permanent residency in the United States at risk, don't hesitate to reach out to a member of our legal team to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.