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Conditional Permanent Residence

If you are an immigrant to the United States, your green card, or permanent resident card, is the golden ticket that everyone is hoping for. But not all green cards are the same. In some cases, you will not immediately be issued a permanent green card, but instead you will get one that is temporary and has conditions attached. 

Conditional Permanent Residence

What is the difference between a conditional and permanent resident?

A conditional green card is a temporary document that is only valid for two years. In order to get your permanent green card, you will need to file a petition to remove the conditions before your conditional green card expires. This must happen no later than 90 days before your conditional permanent resident card is set to expire. A conditional permanent residence card cannot be renewed. If the conditions are not removed before expiration, then the immigrant will lose permanent resident status, and deportation proceedings can begin.

Who gets a conditional green card?

Conditional permanent residence is given to two types of immigrants. The first and most common type of conditional green card is a marriage-based green card. This will be issued to you if you qualify for permanent residency based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, but have been married to your spouse for two years or less. The second type of conditional green card is one given to entrepreneurs and investors.

Does a conditional permanent resident have the same rights?

A conditional permanent resident is more or less the same as a regular permanent resident as far as day-to-day life goes. With a conditional permanent residence, you can still work or travel as usual, and your time as a conditional permanent resident will still count towards the total time you need to have been a permanent resident before you can gain citizenship.

How do I know if my green card is conditional?

If your green card has an expiration date in two years, then it is conditional. You will need to file to remove conditions on your resident status before the card expires.

How long does a conditional green card take?

Getting your green card is a process. Your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse will file a petition on your behalf for these documents. The United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) will then take steps to verify the documentation that you and your spouse have provided. The speed of the immigrant petition and green card issuance will depend on how fast USCIS can verify this data. The speed of the process is also heavily dependent upon the status of the American spouse and the location of their residence.

The shortest time frame to get a marriage-based conditional residence card will happen when the immigrant is married to a U.S. citizen (either by birth or by naturalization) who lives within the United States. In this case, you can expect to wait 10-17 months for your green card. If the American spouse lives outside the country, it will take a little longer.

If your spouse is not a U.S. citizen and instead has permanent residence, the issuance of your card will also take more time. For a green card holder living in the U.S., the time frame is about 29-38 months. If they are living outside the U.S., then you can expect to wait about six months longer. The good news for a green card applicant based on marriage is that there is no limit to how many are issued each year, so at least that will not cause any further delays.

On the other hand, if you are applying for an employment-based conditional permanent residence, you will run into this problem. There are both limits on how many employment-based green cards are issued each year, and limits on which countries’ citizens can receive them. Some countries send large numbers of immigrants to the U.S. — in particular, China and India — and there is a limit that no more than 7% of green cards can be issued per country. This helps to diversify the countries from which immigrants get a chance for U.S. permanent residence, but it also means that those from one of the high-demand countries can expect to have to wait much longer than the average, up to decades, unless changes are made in U.S. immigration law.

How can my conditions be removed?

Conditional green cards are only valid for two years, but this doesn’t mean that you face removal from the U.S. after this time frame. There is a process to apply to remove conditions from your permanent residence and become a regular green card holder. Why are some green cards conditional in the first place? This is to prevent green card scams, basically, so USCIS requires those in short-term marriages to provide evidence that the relationship and marriage are genuine. Before your conditional green card expires, you must prove that you did not use your marriage as a means to get around U.S. immigration laws. In order to do so, you must file a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.

If you and your spouse are still married after two years, then you will file a joint petition of Form I-751. Along with Form I-751, you will need to provide copies of several documents and full English translations of those in a foreign language. In addition to copies of both sides of your permanent resident card, you will need to provide evidence that your marriage was made in good faith, rather than to circumvent immigration laws. This can include as many documents as necessary to establish the circumstances of your relationship and prove that it is genuine.

What happens if I get a divorce before my conditions are removed?

If you have gotten or are in the process of filing for a divorce or otherwise have dissolved your marriage from your American spouse before your conditional green card has expired, you may still be able to successfully apply for a permanent green card. To do so, you will need to provide the same evidence that you entered into the marriage in good faith, but you will also need to include your spouse’s death certificate (if applicable), your divorce decree, and evidence about why your relationship ended or about abuse you may have suffered at the hands of your spouse. It is also possible to file for a waiver of the joint filing requirement due to the fact that your removal from the U.S. would result in extreme hardship, for which you will also need to provide evidence.

Law Firm for Conditional Permanent Residence

Obtaining permanent residency status in the United States is difficult under the best circumstances. The attorneys at the Florida Immigration Law Counsel can make certain that your application form is filed properly and will follow up as you progress through the stages. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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