By Reuben S. Seguritan


An alien, married to a US citizen or permanent resident may obtain a green card through marriage. If the marriage occurred less than two years at the time the green card is issued, the resident status is conditional.

The conditional green card expires on the second anniversary of the day when the conditional status was granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Prior to its expiration and within ninety (90) days before the second year of issuance of the conditional green card, both husband and wife should file a joint petition (I-751) for the removal of the condition. If the petition is not filed, the resident status is automatically terminated as of the second anniversary of the green card issuance and the spouse may be removed from the U.S.

The I-751 must be signed by both spouses and submitted along with supporting documents establishing the validity of their marriage.

These supporting documents may include documents showing joint ownership or occupancy of property such as deeds, leases, mortgage contracts; birth certificates of children; financial records showing joint ownership of assets and joint responsibility for liabilities, such as joint savings and checking accounts, joint federal and state tax returns, insurance policies that show the other spouse as the beneficiary, joint utility bills, joint installments or other loans; photographs of family events; and/or affidavits of third parties who know the couple, photographs. These are submitted along with a copy of the front and back of the conditional green card of the beneficiary spouse and the filing fee.

If both spouses cannot file the I-751 jointly, a waiver of the joint filing requirement must be filed by the conditional resident.

A waiver may be obtained under three separate grounds: 1) termination of the good faith marriage due to divorce or death of petitioning spouse; 2) extreme hardship to the conditional resident spouse, and 3) extreme cruelty or battery by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse during the good faith marriage.

Under the first ground, the existence of good faith marriage entered by the parties is an essential requirement before the marriage was terminated either through death or divorce. The marriage must be terminated. Mere commencement of a divorce proceeding is not sufficient to waive joint filing. Privacy – Terms Under the second ground, the USCIS, in assessing extreme hardship, will look into several factors such as the alien’s age, family ties in the U.S. and abroad, length of residence in the U.S., health conditions, economic and political conditions in the alien’s home country, occupation and work skills, immigration history, position in the community, alien’s special assistance to the U.S. and alternate ways to adjust status.

The third ground of battery and/or extreme cruelty requires evidence of good faith marriage. While battery or extreme cruelty is not explicitly defined by immigration laws, regulations and case precedents are instructive in providing guidance in showing proofs of physical and spousal abuse. Evidence of physical abuse may include reports and expert testimony from police, judges, medical personnel, school officials, and social service agency personnel, among others.

Each ground for waiver is assessed on a case-by-case basis. The conditional resident has the burden of proving said grounds for the I-751 waiver.