I-751 Removal of Conditions: A Complete Overview
Congratulations on completing nearly two years as a green card holder!
If you applied for a marriage-based green card and your marriage was less than two years old at the time you were issued a green card, you were issued a conditional two year green card. This means during the 90 days before the expiration date of your green card, you must apply to remove the conditions on your green card.
The removal of conditions is an important step, and in order to make sure it gets done right so you avoid falling out of immigration status, you may want to hire a licensed immigration attorney like the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti to represent you. After removing conditions, the next step in a green card holder’s immigration journey is to apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen.
Here are important things to consider when removing conditions from your green card.
The Importance of Timely Filing the I-751
As mentioned above, a conditional green card holder must apply to remove their conditions in the ninety day period leading up to the expiration of their two year green card. The application filing is a joint filing request which means the I-751 is submitted by and signed by both the applicant (the conditional green card holder) and the petitioner-spouse.
If you don’t have the cooperation of your spouse due to divorce, pending divorce, death or otherwise, you’ll have to file an individual request and possibly a waiver (discussed below).
This means that you should start working on preparing your removal of conditions application about four months before the green card expiration date. If you want to be represented by a lawyer, four months before the expiration date is also a good time to reach out to a lawyer.
Here are the types of documents that you should start gathering four months before the expiration of your green card:
Evidence of bona fide marital relationship;
Dispositions on criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (if applicable);
Copy of front and back of your green card;
Other evidence, depending on the particular circumstances of your case.
The I-751 application package consists of far more than just the form. With all the relevant accompanying documentation, a well prepared I-751 application package can be well over 100 pages long.
Evidence of Bona Fide Relationship
The central part of the removal of conditions is presenting evidence of a bona fide relationship between the green card holder and the spouse-petitioner, especially during the period since the date conditional green card was issued. This means you have to show that you’ve been living the life of a real married couple, and that you’re not just in a fake marriage to get somebody a green card.
Evidence of a bona fide relationship for a removal of conditions case is very similar to the bona fide relationship evidence given in an initial marriage based green card application. Documentary evidence can include:
A joint apartment lease or mortgage document;
Joint bank account statements:
Joint health care plan;
Joint car lease or ownership of an automobile;
Document showing insurance plan taken by one spouse with the other spouse as the beneficiary;
Joint telephone plans;
Birth certificate of any children had in the course of the marriage;
Declarations of family members and friends attesting to the bona fide relationship of the couple;
English translations of all non-English documents;
Other documentary evidence as well.
As with the initial green card application, the couple can also be demanded to provide such evidence of a bona fide marriage right in the middle of the process in what’s called a request for evidence after submitting the I-751 application package.
Several months after submitting the application, the couple are usually called to an in-person interview with a USCIS officer at a USCIS field office near where you live. Applicants who live in Los Angeles are called to a USCIS field office in Los Angeles. Las Vegas resident applicants are called to a Las Vegas USCIS field office, and so on.
This interview is, in some ways, the last real shot USCIS has to determine whether the marriage is real or fraudulent. As a result, sometimes these interviews can be rough, anxiety-provoking affairs. As with other USCIS interviews, you are entitled to have a lawyer represent you at the interview. At the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti, we’ve successfully represented many couples through challenging removal of conditions interviews.
Applicants should keep in mind that the interview is the second way that USCIS gathers evidence of the nature of the couple’s relationship (the first way being the documentary evidence mentioned above). At the interview, the testimony of the couple is the evidence.
Being well prepared for the interview is crucial and applicants who have any kind of issue or weakness with their case should contact a qualified immigration attorney for consultation and possibly representation.
What If You’re No Longer Married?
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that not every marriage works out. This doesn’t mean that the marriage was not based on a real relationship.
If the couple has gotten divorced during the two year period of the applicant’s conditional green card, the applicant will have to make an individual application and a “waiver” of the joint filing requirement.
In that case, you’ll have to include the following additional documentary evidence:
The final divorce or annulment decree;
Evidence demonstrating any evidence circumstances surrounding the termination of the relationship;
An explanation for the reason you are filing separately from your primary conditional permanent resident parent (if applicable);
Other documentary evidence as well.
Filing individually for a removal of conditions is challenging and these cases typically get a higher level of scrutiny from USCIS than if you were filing jointly with your spouse.
A note about individual applications: If you’re filing an individual application, you should give serious consideration to hiring an immigration lawyer to represent you in the process to show that the marriage was entered into in good faith to increase the chances of avoiding a denial of the removal of conditions application.
Proving Your Immigration Status While I-751 is Pending
After submitting your I-751 application, your conditional green card will likely expire while you are still waiting for your I-751 to be adjudicated. During this period, you may have to prove that you are still in status as a legal permanent resident despite the expiration of the green card, whether to enter the United States from travel abroad or to prove employment authorization or for other reasons.
Here’s how we deal with that issue. After submitting your I-751, you will receive a receipt notice. The I-751 receipt notice typically has a notation on the bottom stating that the letter is evidence of the applicant’s legal permanent residency in the United States for up to eighteen months.
This letter serves as your evidence of legal permanent residency until the removal of conditions application (I-751) is decided. As with all letters from USCIS, you should scan this letter and save a copy in a secure location.
A note about lengthy I-751 processing times: Nowadays, I-751 applications can be lengthy and oftentimes take even longer than the 18 month validity period of the receipt notice. In that case, the applicant may have to schedule a USCIS INFOpass appointment to get a temporary I-551 stamp to serve as evidence of legal permanent residency for an additional six months.
Applying for Naturalization While I-751 Still Pending?
Another common scenario that arises for many I-751 applicants is that they end up becoming eligible to apply for naturalization while their I-751 application is still pending.
To explain how this happens, it’s necessary to do a little bit of basic math!
As we’ve discussed in other articles and videos, that’s because green card holders who are married to U.S. citizens become eligible to apply for naturalization (form N-400) two years and nine months after the issuance of their conditional green card. Since the I-751 must be submitted at the two year anniversary date (at the latest) of the green card issuance, if the I-751 is pending for more than nine months, the applicant (if still married to the U.S. citizen petitioner) becomes eligible to apply for naturalization!
In that case, should you wait for the I-751 to be decided before applying for naturalization?
No! Each case is different, but as a general matter, we usually recommend our clients apply for naturalization as soon as possible, even if the I-751 is still pending. From a legal standpoint, applicants need not wait.
Depending on the complexity and processing times of the I-751 and the naturalization (N-400) application, and the operating protocol of your particular USCIS field office, there sometimes is the possibility to attend one interview for both applications, sometimes referred to as a “combo interview.”
This is usually a preferable scenario as the applicant can go through preparation and attendance at only one interview instead of two, and have both cases adjudicated at once. Discuss with a qualified immigration lawyer whether this is a possibility for your case.
Congratulations - You’ve Been Approved!
What Happens Now?
Once your application for removal of conditions is approved, you’ll receive a new 10 year green card. If your new 10 year green card gets close to expiring before you become a U.S. citizen, you’ll likely have to renew the green card to maintain evidence of your legal permanent residency in the United States.
In the case of our clients, if we haven’t already applied for naturalization for them when they receive their 10 year green card, we immediately start preparing them to apply for naturalization so they can get on the path immediately to obtaining their certificate of naturalization, and shiny blue American passport book with visa free access to 180+ countries.
Contact Our Office for a Consultation
When you’re dealing with something as critical as your future in the United States, you don’t want to take chances. Here at the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti, we have years of experience helping people successfully navigate the process of applying for a green card.
When you retain us to represent you in an I-751 removal of conditions case, this is what we do;
Step 1 - We screen you to make sure you’re eligible for an I-751 removal of conditions. .
Step 2 - Identify any issues your case may have under U.S. immigration law.
Step 3 - Guide you in gathering your necessary documents & filling all the appropriate forms.
Step 4 - We assemble and submit the application package.
Step 5 - We deal with all communications with USCIS on your behalf regarding your case, including responses to any simple or complex requests for evidence (“RFE”s).
Then we guide you for one of the most difficult parts of the process - the I–751 removal of conditions interview.
We prepare both you and your spouse for the visa interview with two separate preparation sessions. In those sessions, we go over any sensitive areas of the case, as well as strategies to remain calm, cool and clear-headed during the interview which can be a stressful process.
If you’re ready to remove the conditions from your legal permanent residency, book a consultation now.
The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.