Failing to remove conditions on green card can have quite serious and long last consequences. When you are issued a conditional green card, this means that your green card application process is not over; it is just starting. It means that you are preliminarily approved, but your permanent resident status has conditions. If you fail to comply with and maintain such conditions, you are most likely to lose your immigration status.
Context for Situations When People Need to Remove Conditions on Green Card
In the green card application process, most often people need to remove conditions on green card is when an intending immigrant applies for a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, but their marriage is less than two years old. The reason for this is because the USCIS considers such green card applications as high risk and automatically treats them as applications for conditional green card. This establishes a mechanism for the USCIS to revisit and review the status of the applicant’s marriage – and confirm the marriage bona fides (see what does bona fide mean for the USCIS purposes) – by requiring the applicant to re-submit his or her application two years after the approval of the original application. Such re-application is done on the Form I-751. Ideally, you want to aim for such an application that it would require no I-751 interview.
Mistake #1: Failure to File to Remove Conditions on Green Card
Probably the most profound mistake you can do is to fail to remove condition on green card all together. When you receive your originally approved two-year green card, you will receive a letter from the USCIS pointing to the fact that this current green card is issued for two years only and there are additional steps you must follow to receive a 10-year lawful permanent resident status. If you forget and don’t follow those steps (i.e., submit Form I-751), the USCIS will consider such lack of follow through as an abandonment of your petition. Therefore, you will become out of status and will have to leave the United States voluntarily or become subject to deportation proceedings. When you receive your two-year green card, that is just an interim step in your green card application. Do NOT forget to prepare and file I-751 around your green card expiration date.
Mistake #2: Failure to File to Remove Conditions on Green Card On Time
The second biggest mistake you can make with the failure to remove conditions on green card is timing. The USCIS regulations state that you must file I-751 within 90 days of your temporary green card expiration date. Be careful: These 90 days are PRIOR to the expiration date – not after. If you file before 90 days to the expiration date, the USCIS most likely will not accept your application and will ask you to refile when the time is right. The consequences of doing this are benign.
However, filing your application AFTER your two-year green card expires may have some serious ramifications. While a slight “miss” may not have a big issue, failing to file I-751 for weeks or months at a time, may have serious consequences. Technically your immigration status expires with the expiration of the temporary green card, which puts you out of status. Being within the U.S. out of status may lead to extended periods of bans from traveling to the U.S. Depending on the extent of your overstaying your status, this ban may last three or ten years, but may be as long as life-time.
Mistake #3: Failure to Include Adequate Marriage Bona Fides in Support of the Application
This may be considered obvious but failing to provide proper evidence and supporting documentation for your bona fide marriage may lead to the denial of your application. The whole purpose of I-751 is to review the status of the marriage in order to confirm that such marriage was not entered for the purposes of securing immigration benefits. If you fail to supply marriage bona fides, your application will be considered incomplete. It is logical that the USCIS will most likely respond by requesting additional evidence and outline what types of documents they’d consider satisfactory. However, your failure to respond, respond on time or respond with fulsome support documents may lead to the application denial. As such, your green card will expire and you may become out of status.
Mistake #4: Failure to Include Application Fee
This one probably does not qualify for a “deadly” mistake, but nevertheless can lead to unwanted delays. In most cases, the USCIS will notify you that the application was not accompanied by the appropriate payment. If you forget to include the check, the USCIS will send you a note stating that you need to include the payment or return your application altogether asking you to re-submit the entire application with the payment enclosed. If you include the check, but it bounces because the account does not have the money to cover the fee, the USCIS will retry the payment electronically one more time. If the payment fails again, the USCIS will send you a notification to this effect. In either scenario, the application processing likely be delayed.
Mistake #5: Failure to Follow Application to Remove Conditions on Green Card Protocols After the App is Submitted
The application to remove conditions on green card is about following the process. After you submit your application, you will be invited to attend the biometrics appointment, which involves submitting your fingerprints and signature as well as new picture. Separately, the USCIS may also invite you and/or your spouse to attend a green card marriage interview. While the green card interview experience may be unpleasant, failure to show up without properly rescheduling your immigration appointment will lead to serious consequences. The USCIS will likely consider your application abandoned.
Last but not least, at any point in the process, the USCIS may send you a request for additional evidence (RFE). And as we discussed above, if you don’t respond, don’t respond on time or don’t respond with fulsome support documents, then your application may be denied. In short, following the protocols to remove conditions on green card is important. Stay alert to any communications your receive from the USCIS and follow their instructions to the letter. More importantly, know the process, the protocols and what to expect. We dedicated a long section of the Green Card Through Marriage Guide to I-751. Don’t be caught unprepared. Download it now.
“Can you get a 10-year green card without an I-751 interview?” is another popular question we receive with consistency. In my opinion, if you are doing your green card application right, you don’t need to have an I-751 interview. Your I-751 process should be as straightforward as an arrow: You send your application in, your green card arrives in the mail several months later.
If you receive an I-751 interview invitation, to me this would be a red flag. It may be a sign that you are not following a proper green card application process, your green card application is in trouble, or there is an immigration services officer out there suspecting that you and your marriage is a fraud. Neither of these possibilities sounds like good news to me. And if you decided that the green card through marriage is your choice of how to immigrate to USA, this development should be no good news for you either.
A Quick Recap on I-751: What Is It?
As we discussed previously, I-751 is used to apply for the removal of conditions to your green card (for a more detailed review of green cards, see What is a Green Card?). The conditions are put in place by the USCIS when you apply for the green card through marriage when your marriage is less than two years old. A marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreigner is a very easy arrangements to enter to. This is a built-in check mechanism to ensure that people don’t abuse this immigration provision and enter marriages just for the purposes of securing immigration benefits. After two years since your initial green card through marriage application approval, you have to re-apply to remove conditions on green card. Such application is done on the Form I-751.
A Traditional Fulsome Process: I-751 with Interview
A traditional process to remove conditions on green card is very similar to your original green card process. We provide high level outline in the green card definition post. All the green card through marriage process steps are similar: You prepare the application (this time on the Form I-751), you supply supporting documentation and you submit it to the USCIS for review. After the USCIS receives your application, it automatically extends your green card by about 12 months and sends you a letter to that effect. The USCIS does not provide you with a new green card; the letter together with your old green card is your “green card” package for the duration of the I-751 review. Shortly thereafter, you are supposed to receive an invitation for a biometrics appointment. After you attend the biometrics appointment, you will receive an invitation for your green card marriage interview. Not all people have similar green card interview experience: It may be joint with your spouse, or your spouse and you may be separated for the immigration appointment. After the interview, your green card decision will be made on spot, which may be an approval or denial. A third outcome may involve a request for additional evidence, in case the immigration services officer feels some more documents are required to be reviewed before a decision can be made. After you supply such documents, the decision about your green card will be made in absentia and you will be informed via mail.
Why Should I Care or Worry About the I-751 Interview?
The short answer is that if you are prepared, organized and careful about following protocols, you probably should not worry about the I-751 interview. It will be another milestone in the process, which you can pass with ease. However, if I can I’d like to avoid the interview for two reasons: Risk and Delays.
Risk is an uncertainty. With interview, more variables are introduced in your green card process. The immigration services officer bad mood or coffee. Bad weather on the day of your interview (increasing the chanced of you being late). Your performance during the interview. Your spouse’s performance during the interview…. Even though many of these variables you can control – although some you clearly can’t – the risk of something going wrong increases if more variables are tossed in the equation. I’d rather not introduce this extra risk.
Interview will more likely than not cause delays. With the USCIS backed up, it will probably be weeks before they can schedule you for an appointment. And if the interview leads to the request for additional information and evidence, that will further exacerbate the wait. So, my recommendation is to avoid the interview, especially since there are ways to do so.
How to Get a 10-year Green Card Without an I-751 Interview?
So how do you go about getting a 10-year green card without an I-751 interview? Having gone through this process successfully, I am sharing my biggest I-751 takeaway: Be put together, prepared and organized before you submit your application.
The USCIS is underfunded and overloaded. I am sure immigration officers review half-baked cases with no proper or believable supporting documentation. Sometime they have to evaluate cases that pretty much smell like fraud, but they still have to review them and give them proper time and evaluation. Make it easy for an immigration services officer. Put the application together right and fill out all information necessary. Provide them with adequate supporting documentation. Organize the supporting documentation logically and make sure it proves your relationship is a bona fide marriage. (For some help, see What Does Bona Fide Mean for the Purposes of USCIS?) The easier you are going to make it for them, the quicker and easier it will be on you.
I believe there are two parts to avoiding your I-795 interview. First, making your I-751 consistent with and tied to your original green card application. Second, making it as fulsome and continuous to your original green card application. So what does that mean?
First, making your I-751 consistent with your green card application. When I was submitting my I-751, I used as many documents as possible to draw connections to my original application and evidence. For example, I used exactly the same people who had written affidavits of bona fide marriage two years ago to supply affidavits about the relationship now in support of my I-751. As another example, I used the same joint bank accounts to demonstrate intermingling of assets between my wife and I. In my cover letter, I drew attention that it was the same bank account as in my original application. In short, I was trying hard to demonstrate a connection and strong relationship between my original application and the I-751 I was submitting to remove conditions to green card.
Second, I used supporting documentation to demonstrate continuity of both my green card application and the relationship with my wife. The moment I had received my conditional green card several years back, I knew that it was the beginning of the two-year journey (certainly not the end). Or, perhaps, even longer. So, I started passively but diligently preparing for the I-751 and started documenting my and my wife’s life. I started collecting evidence. I kept track of our travels, our major purchases and our apartment moves. By the time the I-751 time rolled in, I had all the evidence I needed in place. It was quick and easy for me to pull that application together. The evidence showed our lives progressively over the past several years, not just a few weeks prior to the I-751 application submission.
I believe that because I was so familiar with the process and because I was so thorough in documenting my life, the USCIS let me off the hook and never invited us for the interview. I dedicated a considerable number of pages to the I-751 process in the Do It Yourself Green Card guide. The guide talks a lot about the supporting documentation and how to ensure you go through the simplified I-751 review. And that’s my advice to the readers. Be prepared. Get the Green Card Through Marriage guide and organize your paperwork for success.