What is conditional resident status?
Conditional resident status is a temporary immigration status granted to certain individuals who are married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) and have been married for less than two years at the time their green card application is approved. It’s a unique status that is designed to ensure the authenticity of the marital relationship and prevent fraudulent marriages entered into solely for immigration benefits.
When a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen or green card holder, they can apply for a green card (lawful permanent residency) based on their marriage. However, if the marriage is less than two years old when the green card is granted, the foreign spouse is granted conditional resident status instead of full permanent resident status.
Here’s an overview of conditional resident status:
- Two-Year Conditional Period: Individuals who are granted conditional resident status receive a conditional green card that is valid for a period of two years. During this time, they have many of the same rights and responsibilities as permanent residents.
- Purpose: The purpose of the conditional resident status is to ensure that the marriage is genuine and not entered into for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration benefits. It helps prevent “marriages of convenience” or fraudulent relationships.
- Petition to Remove Conditions: Before the conditional resident’s green card expires, they must file a joint petition with their spouse to remove the conditions and convert their conditional status into full permanent resident status. This petition is typically filed using Form I-751, “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.”
- Evidence of Genuine Marriage: When filing the petition to remove conditions, the couple must provide evidence that they continue to live together as a married couple and that their marriage is genuine. This evidence may include joint financial records, shared living arrangements, photographs, affidavits from friends and family, and more.
- Interview and Approval: USCIS may conduct an interview to evaluate the legitimacy of the marriage. If the agency is satisfied that the marriage is genuine, the conditions will be removed, and the conditional resident will receive a permanent green card.
- Exceptional Circumstances: If the marriage ends in divorce or if the foreign spouse’s U.S. citizen spouse is abusive, the conditional resident may be eligible to file for a waiver of the joint filing requirement to remove the conditions.
It’s important to note that the process of removing conditions can be complex, and the specific requirements and documentation needed can vary based on individual circumstances. If you are a conditional resident, it’s advisable to carefully follow USCIS guidelines, seek legal advice if needed, and ensure that you file the necessary forms and documentation on time to avoid any issues with your immigration status.
How to remove conditions on residence obtained through marriage?
To remove conditions on residence obtained through marriage (also known as obtaining a permanent green card), conditional residents must file a joint petition with their spouse to demonstrate the continued authenticity of their marital relationship. This process is essential to convert your conditional resident status into full permanent resident status. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to remove conditions on residence:
- Timing: You should start the process to remove conditions within the 90-day period before your conditional green card expires. You need to file Form I-751, “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence,” during this window.
- Joint Petition: If you are still married and living together with your spouse, you will typically file a joint petition. Both you and your spouse must sign the petition. If your marriage is no longer intact due to divorce or separation, or if your U.S. citizen spouse has subjected you to abuse, you might be eligible to apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement.
- Gather Supporting Documentation: Compile evidence that demonstrates your continued genuine marital relationship. This may include joint bank account statements, shared lease or mortgage documents, utility bills, photographs, travel records, affidavits from friends and family, and any other documents that show your ongoing commitment to each other.
- Complete Form I-751: Fill out Form I-751 accurately and thoroughly. Provide all required information and documentation to support your case.
- Filing Fee: Include the required filing fee with your Form I-751. Check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date fee information.
- Mail Your Petition: Mail the completed Form I-751, supporting documentation, and filing fee to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox facility. Make sure to keep a copy of everything you send.
- Receive a Notice of Action: After USCIS receives your petition, you will be sent a Notice of Action (Form I-797) confirming the receipt of your application. This notice will also extend your conditional resident status while your petition is being processed.
- Biometrics Appointment: You may receive a notice for a biometrics appointment, where you will provide fingerprints, photographs, and signature.
- Interview (If Applicable): USCIS may schedule an interview for you and your spouse to attend. The interview is designed to assess the legitimacy of your marriage and to verify the information provided in your petition.
- Decision: USCIS will review your petition and the evidence you provided. If your petition is approved, you will receive a new permanent green card. If additional evidence is needed or if there are concerns about the authenticity of your relationship, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) or deny your petition.
It’s crucial to thoroughly understand the specific requirements and documentation needed for your situation, as they can vary based on individual circumstances. If you have any concerns or questions, consider consulting with an experienced immigration attorney before filing your petition to remove conditions on residence.
What are the limitations of the conditional resident status?
Conditional resident status comes with certain limitations and responsibilities that individuals should be aware of during the two-year period before they can remove the conditions and obtain full permanent resident status. Here are some important limitations to consider:
- Limited Duration: Conditional resident status is temporary and is granted for a period of two years. It’s a conditional form of permanent residency.
- Joint Filing Requirement: If you obtained conditional resident status through marriage, you must jointly file a petition to remove the conditions on your residence with your spouse. This requirement is to demonstrate the authenticity of your marital relationship.
- Timing Requirement: You must start the process to remove conditions during the 90-day window before your conditional green card expires. Failing to do so could result in the loss of your lawful status.
- Limited Travel Flexibility: While you can travel internationally with your conditional green card, you should be aware that lengthy trips abroad could raise questions about your continued residence in the United States.
- Potential for Joint Interviews: USCIS may schedule an interview for you and your spouse to assess the authenticity of your marriage as part of the process to remove conditions.
- Possible Denial: If USCIS determines that your marriage was entered into solely for immigration benefits or if they find discrepancies in your evidence, your petition to remove conditions could be denied. This could lead to the loss of your conditional resident status and potential removal from the U.S.
- Divorce or Separation: If your marriage ends in divorce or separation before you can remove the conditions, you may still be eligible to file a waiver of the joint filing requirement if you can prove that your marriage was entered into in good faith.
- Work Authorization: Conditional residents are eligible to work in the U.S. by obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). However, you should be cautious about changing jobs or employers during this period.
- Driver’s License: You can apply for a driver’s license using your conditional green card. However, some states have specific rules regarding driver’s licenses for conditional residents, so check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
- Permanent Resident Benefits: Conditional residents have most of the rights and responsibilities of permanent residents, such as access to education and certain government benefits. However, some benefits that require a certain period of permanent residency might not be available during the conditional period.
It’s important to understand these limitations and comply with the requirements of your conditional resident status to ensure a smooth transition to full permanent resident status. If you have questions or concerns about your status, consider seeking guidance from an immigration attorney or referring to the official USCIS resources.