When a couple submits the immigrant petition and the application for adjustment of status based on a marriage that is less than two (2) years, the permanent residence that the foreign national spouse receives is, what’s referred to as, “conditional residence.” The conditional residence is valid for two (2) years.
The conditional residence has all the rights of a “regular” permanent residence except for the fact that the residence is valid for two (2) years instead of the regular 10 years. Prior to the expiration of the two-year period, the couple must submit a petition to remove conditions on the permanent residence and receive a 10 year card. Specifically, the couple must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. This Petition must be filed within 90 days of the expiration of the conditional residence. Through this Petition, the couple must show that they continue to be married and are living together as a married couple. The goal is to show that their marriage has been, and continues to be, a bona-fide marriage from the inception. The following are some of the documents that may be submitted as evidence of bona-fide marriage:
- Birth certificates of children born to the marriage
- Lease or mortgage contracts showing joint occupancy and/or ownership of communal residence
- Financial records showing joint ownership of assets and joint responsibility for liabilities such as joint savings and checking accounts, joint federal and state tax returns, insurance policies that show the other spouse as the beneficiary, joint utility bills, joint installments or other loans
- Affidavits/sworn statements by at least two people who have known both of the couple since the conditional residence was granted and have personal knowledge of the marriage and relationship
- Other relevant documents to establish that the marriage was not entered into in order to evade U.S. immigration laws
Once Form I-751 is submitted with proper documents, the foreign national spouse will receive a receipt for Form I-751 submission. The receipt will state that her permanent resident status is automatically extended for one year while she waits for the regular 10 year card. Depending on the current processing time at the time of Form I-751 submission, it could take USCIS about four to seven months for a decision. There is usually no interview for this process but USCIS may schedule an interview to assess the bona-fide relationship and/or verify certain documents in person. When USCIS is satisfied with the evidence showing a bona-fide marriage, USCIS will issue the 10 year permanent residency card.
Thereafter, the foreign national spouse will have to renew the card every 10 years. This is similar to renewing a driver’s license every so many years. There is a specific USCIS form that needs to be filed with requisite filing fees and biometrics (fingerprints) must be taken every time Ruth renews her green card.
Inevitably, there will be marriages that do not last until the time to remove conditions. Some marriages end up in a divorce before the second anniversary and some marriages fall apart due to the abuse of the U.S. citizen spouse. In such events, there are ways to remove conditions on residence without the U.S. citizen spouse’s involvement. There are certain “waivers” available for the foreign spouse that may allow him/her to proceed with removal of conditions on their own. For petitions involving waivers or for the joint petition processing, it is highly recommended to retain an experienced immigration attorney.
USCIS scrutinizes the petitions to remove conditions more closely than the initial adjustment of status application because by this time, not only should the couple have more documents to “prove-up” the bona-fide nature of their marriage, the stakes are higher in issuing a 10 year permanent residency. We, at Root Law Group, have combined experience of more than 60 years practicing exclusively immigration law. Call today for a free in-office legal consultation! (323) 456-7600.