What is conditional permanent residence? You’ve at least heard of a US green card — it’s a slang term for the identification card issued for immigrants who have been granted permanent residence in the United States. But how is conditional permanent residence different?
Any immigrants who have been granted conditional permanent residence must remove the conditions on their permanent residence within the three-month period before the two-year expiration date on their card — that is, complete extra paperwork and possibly an additional interview with USCIS. What exactly do conditional permanent residents have to do, and why can’t they just obtain regular permanent residence status?
What Is Conditional Permanent Residence?
Conditional permanent residence is granted to immigrants who got their green card through marriage, but only if the marriage took place less than two years before the residence was granted. Imposing these conditions was an additional way to combat widespread marriage fraud in the US immigration system.
The benefits of permanent residence bring hundreds of thousands of immigrants to the United States every year. If you’re a permanent resident, you don’t have all the perks of being a US citizen — you cannot register to vote, and your green card will eventually need to be renewed — but you are still legally allowed to live and work in the United States.
If you are granted conditional permanent residence, you receive a green card that is valid for just two years. In the 90-day period before the card expires, you must remove the conditional nature of the residence status.
How Are Conditions Removed?
Conditions are removed when you file a joint petition with your spouse. The joint petition — Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence — must be filed 90 days before your green card expires.
Failing to file the petition will result in automatic loss of your lawful status. You may be contacted by USCIS and placed in removal proceedings.
In some cases, USCIS will accept the I-751 filed after the two-year period, but only if you can establish there were extenuating circumstances that contributed to the failure to file within the required time. If USCIS does not accept your late petition and you are not put into removal proceedings, you may have to file for a green card all over again — an expensive and time-consuming process you probably won’t want to repeat.
What if the Petition Cannot Be Filed?
If you cannot file the I-751 because you are no longer married, that doesn’t automatically mean you will be stripped of your conditional permanent residence and deported. You may apply for a waiver of the requirement to file the I-751, which is conveniently located on the same form.
To be able to file the waiver, you must meet one of these following qualifications:
- Your spouse has died.
- You entered into a bona fide marriage, but it ended by divorce or annulment.
- Your marriage was entered into in good faith, but your US citizen spouse subjected you to physical battery, emotional abuse or other cruelty.
- The termination of your status would cause you extreme hardship.
What Happens After the Petition Is Filed?
If your marriage is bona fide, you have nothing to worry about! Once the petition is filed, USCIS will usually send out a new 10-year green card within a few months.
However, if immigration officers feel the evidence sent along with your petition was a little scarce, they may send out a request for more evidence (photos of your wedding and life together, joint bills or bank statements, a lease or deed with both of your names on it, birth certificates or adoption papers for any children) or they may call you in for a follow-up interview.
Once you supplement your information, you’re on your way to a new green card! Exchanging your conditional permanent residence for standard lawful permanent residence is as easy as that.