Form I-751 & Removing the Conditions on Permanent Residence

Immigrants who adjust status in the United States or who are admitted to the United States based on marriage to a U.S. citizen within two years of the date they were married will receive conditional permanent resident status.  This status is also imposed on the immigrants' children if they obtained immigrant visas based on their parents' marriage to a U.S. citizen.
There really is no difference between the rights, privileges and responsibilities of a conditional resident and a lawful permanent resident (LPR).  However, conditional residents are required to take action before two years have passed from the date conditional residency was obtained in order to preserve their status.
Conditional residents are issued a “green card,” Form I-551 that is marked “CR” for conditional permanent resident and carries an expiration date of two years from the date of approval.  Many refer to this as a two year green card or conditional green card.
At the end of two years, the immigrant and his or her spouse must file a “joint petition” to have the conditions removed.  If the petition is granted, the immigrant will become a full-fledged LPR.
However, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) may terminate one’s conditional status at any time if it determines the marriage was entered into fraudulently.  If conditional residency is terminated, or the joint petition denied, the immigrant will be placed in removal proceedings.
Within 90 days of his or her two year anniversary of receiving status, the conditional resident must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence.  Failure to file the I-751 will result in automatic termination of status and the initiation of removal proceedings.
If the conditional permanent resident is still married to the spouse through whom he or she obtained immigration status, and if that spouse agrees to cooperate in completing the petition, then a joint petition is required.  In the petition, the couple will promise that they were legally married and the purpose of the marriage was not to procure an immigration benefit.
If the marriage has been terminated or if the U.S. citizen spouse refuses to participate in the joint petition, then the conditional resident will need to file for a waiver based on one of the following four grounds:
(1)  The marriage was entered into in good faith, but the spouse has died;
(2)  The marriage was entered into in good faith, but it has been terminated by divorce or annulment;
(3)  The marriage was entered into in good faith, but the conditional permanent resident has been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by the citizen spouse; or
(4)  Termination of permanent residency and deportation would result in extreme hardship.
It is important to recognize that three of the four grounds require a showing that the marriage was entered into in good faith.  In other words, that the purpose of the marriage was not to procure an immigration benefit, but rather for the same reasons any other couple would marry.
To prove good faith, submit proof of (1) the couple’s sharing of financial assets; (2) the length of time the couple cohabitated; (3) birth certificates of children born of the marriage; and (4) any other evidence.
“Any other evidence” can include, but is not limited to, photos, affidavits from friends and family members, insurance documents, bills and joint tax returns.  The ideal evidence is anything showing that the couple made a true commitment to each other.
If, on the other hand, a waiver is sought on the basis of extreme hardship, factors such as the immigrant’s age, family ties to the United States, length of residence in the United States, health, conditions in the country of origin, occupation, immigration history, community involvement and opportunities to adjust status by other means can all be taken into account.
If the petition is approved, the immigrant’s conditional status will be replaced with full-fledged lawful permanent residency and he or she will be provided with a new permanent resident card.  If the immigrant is still married to his or her U.S. citizen spouse, citizenship can be applied for three years after the date the conditional permanent resident status was obtained.

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