Conditional Residency After Marriage to a U.S. Citizen - FAQs

Here are some common questions and tips to follow if you've obtained a "conditional green card" based on marriage to a U.S. citizen.

by Lawrence Gruner, California Attorney

A conditional resident will have a green card which is only valid for two years. The conditional permanent resident must make his or her conditional green card permanent within 90 days of the green card expiring.

Here are some important legal issues to be aware of about your conditional residency after marrying a U.S. Citizen.

Why am I a conditional resident and not simply a permanent resident?

This is because you were married less than two years to your US Citizen spouse before you obtained your green card. If you have not yet applied for your green card, and you have been married for almost two years, you may want to wait until you reach the two year mark. This will save you from having to remove the conditions on your green card in the future.

Does the time I am a conditional green card holder count towards the time needed to naturalize?

Yes it does. While you have your conditional green card you are accruing time towards becoming a naturalized US Citizen.

When do I remove the conditions on my conditional permanent residence?

You must remove the conditions on your green card within the ninety day period of time before it expires. Your green card itself will tell you when it expires.

What form do I use?

Use the I-751 form. Do not use the I-90 form. The I-90 form is for people renewing their ten year green card.

(See Documents Needed for Filing an I-751 Form for information on what to include.)

Can I work and travel with my conditional permanent resident card?

Yes. You may do both.

Should I continue to gather marital bona fide documents like I did before my green card interview?

Yes. The documented proof of your shared life with your spouse will be needed when you file to renew your green card. So keep your pictures and proof of joint travel and joint financial documents

Is it easier to remove the conditions on my green card if I file with my spouse?

Yes, it is much easier when you file jointly than if your spouse will not cooperate (for whatever reason) and you have to file a waiver.

Can I file to remove the conditions on my green card without my spouse?

Yes. Sadly some marriages don’t last very long and in that situation you can file a waiver of the joint filing requirement for the I-751. I strongly suggest you speak to an experienced immigration attorney if you are in this position.

What kind of waivers are there available?

If your spouse dies you can apply for a waiver.

If you are divorced then you can file for a waiver. You will have to prove that you entered into the marriage in "good faith". This means that you really wanted to get married to each other (it truly was a legitimate marriage) and you were not married just to obtain a green card.

If you are not divorced but your spouse does not wish to help you remove the conditions on your green card then you can still apply for a waiver. If your divorce is pending there are certain situations where you can file your waiver under the "good faith" standard. You will have to prove that you suffered extreme cruelty or abuse from your US Citizen spouse, or that the termination of your status would result in "extreme hardship".

I strongly suggest that if you find yourself in the any of these situations that you retain an experienced immigration attorney to help you. Except in the case of a death of a spouse we would also suggest that you consult with a family law attorney.

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