Conditional Residence through marriage to a U.S. Citizen, Part 1

As mentioned in a previous post, if the foreign national who got a green card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen was married under two years (or if a child got Permanent Residence through his or her U.S. Citizen Stepparent prior to the second wedding anniversary) when the Permanent Residence was granted, the green card is valid for only two years, and a joint petition must be filed by husband and wife (and any Permanent Resident children) to remove the condition on residence in the ninety days prior to expiration.

To apply, one sends USCIS form I-751 with filing fees and a copy of the green card to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. It’s important to submit as much evidence of a good-faith marriage as possible; this will make it easier for the USCIS officer to make a quick decision, and send out an approval (some cases can drag on for years; I’m aware of one in Boston that took eight! You should jump at any opportunity to speed up the process…)

In some cases, either due to insufficient or unconvincing evidence, or perhaps as a quality control measure, the couple will be called in for an interview at the local District Office. Again, this can take a long time.

The categories of evidence to submit includes: documents showing that the couple lives together, holds themselves out as a married couple, shares finances, and, if they have children, birth certificates. Some examples, in a VERY partial list:

  • Bills;
  • Leases/deeds/mortgages;
  • Affidavits from friends and family attesting to the validity of the marriage;
  • Joint bank accounts;
  • Birth certificates of children;
  • Hospital records;
  • Life insurance policies;
  • Health insurance policies;
  • Automobile insurance;
  • Joint tax returns;
  • Evidence of joint ownership of assets/property

In short, gather every bit of paper that has the names of both husband and wife on it.

As an aside, my wife is a conditional resident, and sometime in August we’ll be jointly filing an I-751. We keep a file folder into which we put the kinds of documentation that we know we’ll need to submit, so when it comes time to file, it should be fairly easy to put the application together. As we’ve taken a few trips together, we’ll include airplane tickets and itineraries to the application packet, to show that not only do we live together, but that our vacations are with each other, and not from each other! With any luck, and a well-prepared packet, Ana will get her approval and we won’t have to go to the Boston District Office for an interview.

To continue, when USCIS receives the completed application, it sends a receipt notice extending Permanent Residence for a year, for work and travel purposes; then, it’s a matter of waiting for a fingerprint appointment and then decision, a request for more information, or an interview notice.

As always, if the permanent resident has had any interaction with the criminal system, it’s important to seek the advice of an immigration attorney. Of course, it’s always wise to do so when working through the maze of immigration regulations, as every case has its own complexities.

In my next post, I’ll talk about situations where the joint petition can’t be filed, due to separation, divorce, annulment, death, extreme hardship, or spousal/parental abuse.

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