Certain immigrants are granted permanent residence on a conditional basis. A conditional green card is valid for two years only (versus a permanent green card which is valid indefinitely). The most common circumstance under which a person may be issued a conditional green card is when the green card is based on a marriage which is less than two years old at the time the green card is granted. In this case, the conditional period is intended to ensure that the marriage is legitimate.
A conditional green card can be the first step toward unconditional permanent residence, and even to citizenship. But, the burden is on the green card holder to move the process forward, and failing to do so can result in the loss of the green card. Thus, it is important for any conditional green card holder to be informed and proactive.
5 Things Conditional Green Card Holders Must Know
- A conditional green card can’t be renewed. A conditional green card holder who fails to apply for removal of the conditions or whose application to remove the conditions is denied will lose permanent resident status. So, it is critical that a conditional permanent resident keep track of the timeline and begin assembling the necessary information and documentation well ahead of the deadline.
- The application process for removing conditions is different than the process of applying for the initial green card. Marriage-based conditional green card holders initiate the process by filing form I-751. In addition, most applicants for removal of conditions on a marriage-based green card must file a joint application with the U.S. citizen spouse. However, if the applicant is no longer married to the U.S. citizen spouse, then the applicant can file to remove the conditions by his or herself under certain circumstances.
- Substantive evidence will be required to support the removal of conditions application. A marriage-based applicant, for example, must provide affidavits from at least two people who have known the couple throughout the conditional period and have personal knowledge of the marital relationship. Other documentation may include joint bank statements, joint title to property, joint tax returns and other evidence that the couple is living as husband and wife.
- The application must be filed in the 90 days prior to the green card expiration date. If an application to remove conditions hasn’t been filed within the 90-day period, a conditional green card holder will lose status and be subject to removal immediately upon the expiration of the initial two-year period. Although there are circumstances under which a late application may be accepted, the resident is at risk of removal from the anniversary date forward.
- Conditional status will be extended while your application is being processed. Although the application must in most cases be made during the 90-day period preceding expiration of the green card, processing by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) typically takes more than 90 days. An 8-12 month processing period is not unusual. However, the applicant’s status will be extended while the application is pending. During this time, the applicant can continue working and traveling with proof of the extension of green card status.
An Experienced Immigration Lawyer Can Be Your Best Resource
After receiving a conditional green card and living and working in the United States for two years, the application to remove conditions may feel like a formality. However, the application process can be complicated, and providing the right supporting evidence in the right format is critical to the success of your application. Working with an experienced immigration attorney to assemble your application and supporting documents can expedite the process, reduce stress, and help ensure that you do not make honest mistakes that could threaten your status.