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In today’s post, we tackle common questions we get about Petitions to Remove the Conditions on Residence (Form I-751). We also discuss the current processing times and what that means for permanent residents with expired green cards. Read on to learn how to anticipate common issues and avoid headaches due to expired green cards.
My green card is expiring! How do I know if I need to file Form I-751?
Form I-751 is used only for people with conditional green cards. What are those? Those are cards that are valid only for 2-years. If your card is valid for 10 years and it is expiring, you need Form I-90. USCIS gives conditional green cards to immigrants who get their status through a marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If the marriage was less than 2 years old when the case is approved or the person enters the U.S. with their immigrant visa, USCIS will send a conditional green card.
USCIS also gives conditional green cards to children and step-children of these marriages. Do not forget these kids! We meet many children whose parents thought they automatically renewed their children’s status when they filed their own I-751. This is not always the case.
Question # 2
My spouse and I are still married. What do we need to send to get approved?
First, congratulations on your 2nd wedding anniversary! Hopefully your attorney or your USCIS officer reminded you that this day would come. If you have been on top of things, you should have been saving evidence of your relationship over the last two years. However, if you forgot or didn’t know, here are common items that help a case:
- jointly filed tax returns
- proof that you have been living together like your leases or house titles
- proof that you share your income like joint bank accounts
- photos of you and your spouse taken at special events or trips
- insurance policies that show you and your spouse as beneficiaries or joint owners.
Remember, USCIS is only interested in evidence since you got your green card. Evidence you submitted previously should not be sent with your I-751. To get approved, your evidence must show to USCIS that you and your spouse have been living your lives together. It is not enough that you have not divorced and it is definitely a red flag if you do not live together. If you situation is unique (for example, you are students or one of you has a job in a separate state), talk to a lawyer to make sure you address this with USCIS.
My spouse and I are separated and headed for divorce? Can I stay in the U.S.?
This situation is tricky but not uncommon. First, you may be able to stay in the U.S. even if the marriage did not work out. There are two main things to know. If you are already divorced, the law lets you file Form I-751 by yourself. Meaning, your spouse does not have to sign the form with you. If you are in the process of divorcing, you can file Form I-751 but be very careful. USCIS will only give you 87 days after filing to provide a divorce decree. If your divorce will not be final in 87 days, talk to a lawyer.
In both situations, you will still have to show that you married your spouse in “good faith.” What does that mean? In a phrase, “you married for love and not only for a green card but things did not work out.” The shorter your marriage lasted, the more eyebrows your case will raise to USCIS.
One other situation that often comes up. What if you married for love but your spouse became abusive? The law allows you to file Form I-751 in this case too. This includes people who may or may not be divorced. Talk to a lawyer if you have suffered abuse by your spouse. Remember, abuse is not always physical. Other behaviors can be considered abuse too. For example, verbal and emotional abuse or withholding financial support.
You can also file Form I-751 based on hardship you would suffer if you had to return to your home country. But like the options above, you always have to show the marriage was entered into in “good faith.”
How long will it take to get my new green card?
At least a year. If not longer. Processing times for I-751’s filed with the California Service Center show the following as of July 31, 2017:
|I-751||Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence||Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents||July 5, 2016|
What this means is that as of July 31, 2017, USCIS was making decisions on I-751’s filed by July 5, 2016. This means cases are waiting at least a year to receive even a first look.
Then, if USCIS decides they need to interview you and/or your spouse, you will have even longer to wait for a decision.
What do I do after my green card expires?
First, an expired green card does not mean you are no longer a permanent resident. It only means the card has expired and needs to be renewed. When you file Form I-751, you will get a fancy green sheet that says it is a filing receipt. This is a very important piece of paper. This paper is not only proof that you filed on time but it is also proof that you are still a permanent resident. So, when your job asks for proof of your ability to work or you need to travel, you will show this letter.
One problem: the letter says it is only valid for 1-year. As we just learned, these cases are taking longer than a year. In this situation, you will need to get a stamp put in your passport as proof of your status. Our office can help you through these steps.
An attorney cannot make processing times go faster but we can try to help you avoid an interview or other delays. We can also help you after your file if you get a Request for Evidence, an Interview, or have problems because your card has expired. We hope this information has been useful to you. Feel free to read more about the I-751 process on our site here including the 90-day window to file.