How to use I-751 to get a 10-year green card? We are often being asked this question by folks wondering how to immigrate to USA. So we are publishing here an excerpt from our guide to help address these types of queries going forward. Our Green Card Through Marriage guide has a much more fulsome discussion of the I-751 process. If you have any further questions, please ask in comments or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will make sure to get back to you within 24-48 hours and address your concerns.
What is I-751?
I-751 is a USCIS form called the Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. As the name implies, it is used by a conditional resident who obtained immigrant status through marriage to request that USCIS remove the conditions around his or her permanent resident status. This form can also be used to remove the conditions of the status of your dependent children who acquired conditional resident status on the same date as you or within 90 days thereafter.
Understanding Conditional Green Card
When you are married less than two years and apply for green card through marriage, by default the USCIS reviews your application as if it was a petition for a temporary or conditional green card. The rationale for this is to establish another check to ensure that the marriage being entered into does not involve fraud or sole purpose of securing immigration benefits. This also establishes a control mechanism requiring the applicant to go back to the USCIS and report on the progress of the marriage. And did we mention that this is another way for the government to collect a fee? Now we did… (See what is a green card for discussion of alternative ways to marriage to immigrate to the U.S.)
As such, the immigration laws create a very delicate mechanism for any green card through marriage applicant to keep tabs on them. They require you to submit the application for the green card and go through entire evaluation process, including green card marriage interview initially. After the USCIS grants your green card, it grants it for only two years and mandates you to submit another application for the removal of the conditions to your green card at the end of that two-year period. If you fail to submit the application, your green card expires and you are automatically become “out of status,” which means you no longer have any immigration privileges in the United States and you must leave the country. If you do not leave the U.S., you will be in violation of the immigration laws and the longer you stay, the longer your out of status time runs, which can lead to substantial bans from entering the U.S. If you do not leave, the two-year anniversary triggers such a condition as you becoming “removable” from the Unite States. This means that the USCIS and other government agencies can initiate removal or deportation proceedings against you. In short you become an illegal immigrant (see how can illegal immigrant become legal). Likelihood that such removing proceedings will be initiated immediately is probably low given the overall case load, but sooner or later it may happen.
How is Conditional Green Card Different from Traditional Green Card
The major difference comes from the term of such green card. Conditional green card has a term of two years, while regular green card has a term of 10 years. Another significant difference is that the conditional green card de facto is a temporary immigrant document. Unless you remove the conditions, the temporary immigrant status expires. The traditional green card is a credential of a lawful permanent resident. Please note “permanent” in its name (see permanent resident application). While the green card expires every 10 years, the status of the “permanent resident” stays with its owner permanently. All other green card benefits and responsibilities remain the same (see green card definition). You have to keep your address current with the USCIS; you must comply with all U.S. laws and regulations; and you must comply with the residency requirements of the lawful permanent resident.
How I Used I-751 to Get a 10-year Green Card
When the two-year anniversary comes along, you pretty much have to report to the government that your marriage is still going strong. In order to file for the removal of the conditions, the application has to come from both spouses – both spouses have to sign the form. The process is very similar to the original green card application process and involves providing (or rather updating) the information I had shared with the USCIS previously. Like with the original green card through marriage process steps, when I filled out the Form I-751, I provided all details for myself and my spouse, updated our address and we both (my wife and I) signed the application. Like with the original green card application, I-751 challenges were around supporting documentation.
I-751 Supporting Documentation
The I-751 supporting documentation is highly subjective. You are trying to establish the bona fides for your marriage (see what does bona fide mean) like you did two years ago in the original green card application. Why? Because the Marriage Between a U.S. Citizen and a Foreigner is a relatively easy exercise. And the USCIS wants to make sure you have a bona fide marriage. But in addition to that, you also want to demonstrate how your marriage evolved in the last 24 months. And I used the best judgement I could. I provided affidavits from family and friends confirming that our marriage has been ongoing. Another piece of evidence I submitted involved a set of statements from joint accounts over the last 24 months; it had a series of activities showing joint payments for rent and other expenses. We submitted several other pieces of documents in support of the bona fide marriage. I expound on those in the Green Card through Marriage guide. And it turned out that the evidence submitted was sufficient because the rest of the I-751 process was a simplified one.
The Rest of the I-751 Process: Simplified to Basics
The I-751 process after filling up and submitting the application turned out to be very similar to the green card process as well. I receive the biometrics appointment invitation, which I attended and submitted my finger prints, picture and signature. Because our forms and supporting documentation were so complete, we never received the invitation for another (and more anxiety producing) immigration appointment, an interview (see How to Get Marriage Based Green Card Without Interview). A green card interview experience can be intimidating and as a milestone in the application evaluation process, thus if you can avoid it, you should strive to do so.
The USCIS acknowledged that they have all the information they need to make a decision and that no interview was required. However, overall process turned out much-much longer than I desired. Apparently, the immigration service was so backed up, that they had to issue me a second 12-months green card extension letter (see green card processing times). Finally, after more than 16 months of waiting post the I-751 submission, the 10-year green card arrived in the mail.
Any Big I-751 Takeaways?
Yes, the biggest I-751 takeaway is to be put together, prepared and organized. The USCIS is underfunded and overloaded. Make it easy for them. Put the application together right and fill out all the information necessary. The easier you are going to make it for them, the quicker and easier it will be on you.
Download yourGreen Card Through Marriage guide, and organize your paperwork for success.
See a follow up to this discussion in the How to Get a 10-year Green Card Without an I-751 Interview? And What are the Deadly Mistakes on the Application to Remove Conditions on Green Card?
“What does bona fide mean when I am dealing with USCIS?” We are often asked this question by our readers. And although we go into considerable detail explaining this concept in our Green Card Through Marriage guide, we wanted to dedicated this post expounding on this concept. Once you understand the meaning of the bona fide in general, translating it for the purposed of the USCIS should be relatively straightforward.
So Really, What Does Bona Fide Mean?
Translated from Latin, “bona fide” means “good faith.” According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “bona fide” definition include three related concepts: (1) made in good faith without fraud or deceit; (2) made with earnest intent (sincere); and (3) neither specious nor counterfeit (genuine, authentic). In this particular context, it is being used as an adjective, which pretty much is designed to qualify or describe a noun, which can be an object, person, document or status, etc.
“Bona fides” can also be used in the context of a noun, in which case “bona fides” become the actual subject, which defines one’s honesty and sincerity of intention. And in a more specific case, “bona fides” means set of documents or documentary proof demonstrating one’s identity and credentials or proving one’s legitimacy. Sometime, “fides” are used as a brief version of “bona fides” referring to one’s credentials.
What Does Bona Fide Mean for the Purposes of USCIS?
So, here you have the actual meaning of the phrase. How is that translated into the USCIS context? According to what is a green card and the green card definition, you can’t just apply for a green card simply because you desire to have it and enjoy all the green card benefits. You have to qualify in order to apply for a green card and then follow the green card process. How do you qualify? You demonstrate that your personal circumstances meet a series of criteria defined by the USCIS allowing you this immigration benefit. As we discussed in How to Immigrate to USA, the major buckets of such circumstanced involve immigration through family relationships or employment, and if you qualify as a refugee or an asylum seeker. And you may ask how “bona fide” is applicable for all these categories in the green card application process? Let us review.
Green Card through Employment
For the purposes of green card through employment, in most cases an employer has to sponsor the green card applicant. The employer has to provide adequate bona fides demonstrating that the firm has a valid business and sustainable business model in the short or medium term. In short, they have to provide evidence that the firm is not organized for the sole purpose of sponsoring the intending immigrant for green card.
Refugee and Asylum Green Card
For the purposes of refugee and asylum green cards, you’d have to prove that you qualify by demonstrating that there is a real risk to your life, health or well-being or your family’s if you return to you home country. The adequate bona fides in such cases may include records of imprisonment or medical records signifying the physical abuse. You probably don’t find a lot of instances when one applies for refugee or asylum green card that such documents are called bona fides. However, probably most often “bona fides” are used in the context of bona fide marriage.
Green Card Through Marriage
The USCIS pays special attention to the bona fides about the marriage when such marriage is used as a basis for applying for a green card. Why? Because marriage, as much as it is public, primarily is a private matter between the spouses. The true nature of it is revealed only between the two of them and, perhaps, to some near family members. Immigration officers do not have an easy and transparent way to verify whether the marriage is real, genuine or authentic.
Besides, it is also very easy to marry someone for the purposes of getting a green card (see how easy it is in Marriage Between a U.S. Citizen and a Foreigner in the United States). So adequate bona fides are a must for a green card through marriage application. Such bona fides can be established during the initial permanent resident application through supporting documents. The appropriate evidence can and should also be supplied during the green card marriage interview. One must be prepared to provide such bona fides during the immigration appointment because it is rare that the USCIS would issue a marriage based green card without interview. The absence of such bona fides in the application and in the supporting documents is a frequent reason for denying of such application.
We’d like to draw a distinction here between the fraud marriage and true marriage, where the couple fails to provide adequate bona fides. A fraud marriage is entered into for the sole purpose of securing immigration benefits in the U.S. As a matter of fact, this is what USCIS investigates in every single application it receives. Every year approximately quarter of a million marriage green cards get approved. And only 200 (two hundred) gets rejected because they are deemed to be based on fraudulent relationship.
On the other hand, there are plenty of couples who are married for the purpose of being married. But they do not provide adequate bona fides that their relationship is real. This is also a basis for the green card application denial. To avoid such mistakes in providing adequate marriage bona fides, download Do It Yourself Green Card guide now.