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.