One of the best parts of becoming a permanent resident in the U.S. is being able to plan for a future with your family and loved ones. Permanent resident status means you can live and work in the U.S. as long as your green card is valid. But what does it mean if you have a conditional green card?
In most cases, you can convert your conditional green card into a permanent one as long as you continue to meet the requirements of your U.S. visa application after two years.
Here’s what you need to know about conditional green cards in the U.S. and how to apply for a Removal of Conditions (ROC) on your permanent resident status.
What is a conditional green card?
A green card, also called a permanent resident card, is a form of photo ID that serves as evidence of your immigration status.
Permanent green cards are valid for 10 years before they expire, but conditional green cards are only valid for a two-year period.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues green cards to foreign nationals who have become lawful permanent residents of the U.S. through an immigrant visa application process.
Conditional permanent residents have the same rights as other permanent residents and can freely enter and exit the U.S. until their green card expires. At that point, they can apply to adjust their status and obtain a 10-year green card.
Who gets a conditional green card?
There are two categories of permanent residents who may receive conditional green cards under U.S. immigration law: spouses of U.S. residents and investors.
In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which introduced conditional permanent resident status as a way to cut down on marriage fraud.
Conditional permanent resident status also applies to investors and entrepreneurs under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
Here’s what you need to know about both types of conditional green cards.
Marriage-based green cards
If you’ve applied for a green card on the basis that your spouse is a U.S. citizen, you may need to show that your marriage is still genuine after two years.
The exception is if you’ve been married for two years already. If that’s the case, you’ll get a 10-year green card right away and skip the conditional period.
If your original application included any children, they’ll also have conditional resident status, and you may be able to include them on the same I-751 form.
Investors or entrepreneurs
Investors or entrepreneurs who apply for a green card through the EB-5 program must make an investment of at least $1 million USD in a business or enterprise, with the goal of creating at least 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.
Successful applicants receive a two-year conditional green card, and they must provide evidence of investments and job creation to adjust their status.
How to remove green card conditions
You’ll need to submit a “Petition to Remove Conditions” in the 90-day period immediately before your conditional green card expires.
To remove the conditions on your green card, you’ll need to provide USCIS with the same kind of evidence that you submitted with your original visa application.
For a marriage-based green card, you’ll submit Form I-751 as a joint petition with your U.S. citizen spouse.
You’ll need to provide evidence that your marriage is a bona fide partnership entered into in good faith, such as:
- Photos of you as a couple
- Affidavits from friends and family members
- Statements from a joint bank account
- Birth certificates of any children
While you’ve already met the eligibility requirements for a conditional green card, you still need to provide these details.
In the case of divorce or annulment, you can still file Form I-751 as an individual, but you may want to seek legal advice from an immigration attorney.
Frequently asked questions about conditional status
Still have questions about adjusting your residency status? Here are a few scenarios that might apply to you.
How much does it cost?
The filing fee for Form I-751 is $595, plus $85 for a biometrics appointment to collect your photo and fingerprints.
If you’re applying as an investor, you’ll fill out Form I-829 instead, along with proof of your investment and the creation of at least 10 jobs.
In 2023, the filing fee for Form I-829 is $3,750, plus $85 for a biometrics appointment.
What happens when the conditional status expires?
Conditional status lasts two years, and must be renewed before the expiration date.
How long does it take to adjust my status?
The processing time from conditional green card to permanent resident can take a year or more.
Once USCIS receives your request, they’ll automatically extend your status by six months or until they make a decision on your application.
Your time as a conditional permanent resident still counts toward your time in the U.S. when you apply for citizenship by naturalization.
What if my conditional green card is lost or stolen?
If your conditional green card is lost or stolen, you’ll need to fill out Form I-90 to replace it. You can’t renew a conditional green card, but you can replace an existing one.
Can I still file Form I-751 if I get divorced?
Yes. As long as your marriage was genuine and entered into in good faith, you should still be eligible to adjust your status even if you get divorced.
However, you may have a harder time providing evidence to support your petition, so consult with an immigration lawyer if you have any doubts.
What happens if my spouse dies?
If your spouse dies during the conditional residency period, you don’t have to wait until 90 days before your green card expires. You can submit Form I-751 right away, as long as you include a death certificate and evidence that the relationship was genuine.
You’ll need to fill out the “Waiver or Individual Filing Request” section instead of “Joint Filing”—even if you already started filling it out before your spouse died.
What if I experienced spousal abuse?
USCIS allows you to file Form I-751 as an individual if you or your child experienced “extreme cruelty” at the hands of your spouse. You’ll need to submit evidence of the abuse, such as police or court records or evidence of a stay at a shelter.
What if denial of my petition would cause extreme hardship?
If your marriage ends during your conditional residency period, but you can’t prove that it was genuine, USCIS may have grounds to deny your petition.
The exception is if you would face “extreme hardship” in your home country.
This applies in limited cases, such as war or political unrest that began after you received your conditional green card.
From conditional residency to citizenship
A conditional green card allows you to live and work freely in the U.S.—you’ll just have to remember to adjust your status beginning 90 days before the second anniversary of your conditional residency.
After five years of living in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident, you’ll be eligible for naturalization and can apply to become a U.S. citizen.
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