How to remove the condition on the Green Card
By Reuben S. Seguritan
When an immigrant obtains their green card through marriage to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR), the first green card they are issued has conditions. They are known as conditional permanent residents (CPRs). In order to remove the conditions from their green card, they must file Form I-751 (petition to remove the conditions on residence) within 90 days prior to the expiration of their status.
The CPRs must file the I-751 before the expiration of the green card because this is their only basis for legally living and working in the US. If they fail to file the I-751 on time, there will be serious consequences.
USCIS will usually inform the CPR through a notice at the start of that 90-day window. However, non-receipt of notice cannot be considered an excuse because the USCIS is not required to give the CPR any prior notice.
If the CPR is still married to the US citizen spouse, they must file the I-751 jointly. They have to submit documents to show their bona fide marriage and continued marital union. The documents may include proof of common residence and shared responsibility, such as lease agreement naming both spouses as tenants, deeds and mortgages in both names; combined financial resources and joint responsibility for liabilities, such as joint checking and savings account statements, insurance policies showing the other spouse as beneficiary, joint federal and state tax returns and joint utility bills.
If the couple is divorced or if the marriage has been terminated due to the death of the US citizen spouse or LPR or the CPR was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty, then he/she must file a petition by himself/herself coupled with a request for a waiver of the joint filing requirement.
If the I-751 petition is not filed, the CPR will lose his or her legal status and may be subjected to removal proceedings. Once the green card has expired, it cannot be used for travel or employment purposes.
If the deadline has lapsed but the CPR wants to submit the I-751, he/she may file it late as long as it is filed with a written explanation as to what caused the delay. USCIS may approve the petition as long as it can show good cause like hospitalization, death of a family member, financial difficulties, being away on active military duty, among others. Corroborating evidence of the good cause should also be included.
If the USCIS determines that there is a good cause for the delay, then it will proceed to adjudicate the I-751. If it is not convinced, however, it will deny the petition for failing to comply with the requirements or issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). It can also refer the case to the local immigration service center for an interview.
In one case, a husband was delayed in filing his I-751 petition for five (5) years and was threatened with deportation. We represented him and despite the long delay and his long separation from his wife, we were able to have his permanent residence status reinstated.