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?