Family Immigration, Green Card, permanent resident

Understanding conditional green cards

Green cards, also called permanent resident cards, are generally valid for ten years. A permanent resident renews his or her ten-year card by submitting USCIS form I-90 renewal/replacement of permanent residence card. A conditional permanent resident, however, receives a green card that expires in two years. The conditional resident must complete a more involved process to remove conditions and be issued the ten-year permanent resident card.

Who are conditional residents?

A conditional resident’s application is based on a marriage to a U.S. Citizen that occurred less than two years from:

  • the date USCIS issues the green card, or
  • the day the green card applicant entered the U.S. using a marriage-based immigrant visa

That means conditional residents are usually the spouse of a U.S. citizen or the child of a U.S. citizen’s spouse.  Conditional status in indicated with USCIS code CR1 or CR2 on the permanent resident card.

How do conditional residents remove conditions?

There are two paths for a conditional resident to remove conditions and receive the ten year green card.

Standard removal of conditions

Most conditional residents remove conditions and receive the standard ten-year green card by filing an I-751 removal of conditions application within 90 days of the card’s expiration.

Both the conditional resident and the U.S. citizen spouse must complete the process together. Each spouse signs form I-751, and the couple provides evidence to USCIS of eligibility and relationship. USCIS reviews the application packet, and the conditional resident’s eligibility and sometimes requests an interview with the couple. USCIS is currently taking about 1.5 years to process and issue a decision in these cases. If USCIS approves the application, it will mail a new ten-year green card.

Waiver process — removal of conditions by conditional resident alone

There are five situations where a conditional resident can apply to remove conditions alone, without the U.S. citizen’s involvement. This process is called an I-751 waiver. USCIS briefly describes these situations in its instructions:

What if a conditional residents doesn’t remove conditions?

USCIS says it will terminate the residency status and put the conditional resident into removal proceedings if the resident does not submit the I751 on time. Speak with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss a late filing if your conditional resident card has expired.

A few more notes about conditional residency

  • Spouses of permanent residents are not often conditional residents because of the longer wait for this category of relative to receive resident status. 
  • Sometimes a waiver can be applied for long before the conditional card expires. An immigration attorney can help you understand the waiver process, evidence, and timing in detail.
  • An applicant for a divorce-based waiver must have the divorce certificate or be able to provide it within 87 days of USCIS sending a request for evidence. If you are in a situation like this and think your green card may expire before your divorce is finalized, speak with an attorney before your card expires.
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