Getting A Conditional Green Card Through Marriage
How does somebody get a two-year green card as opposed to a full term ten-year green card?
If you or one of your parents marries a U.S. citizen, you can get a two-year conditional green card. Eventually, you will have to remove the conditions. If you have kids who are derivatives, they will also receive a two-year conditional green card for residency.
Regardless of when you file or when you go to the interview, the two years begin on the date that your residency is approved.
In Texas, there is the option to register for a Common Law Marriage in lieu of a traditional wedding when someone is in a relationship with a U.S. citizen, but they have not yet obtained their marriage license. A Common Law Marriage allows you to choose the date of your marriage inception and it can be backdated. If you've been living together for longer than 2 years, you can indicate that the marriage began at that previous point in time.
Will this change how we file our taxes?
You may have to amend your taxes if you backdate a marriage. Consider whether taxes would have been filed as a married couple and amend them if needed. It can create complications, but sometimes that is a good option for people who have been together for a long time and perhaps have kids and would like to skip over the conditional two-year residency.
We will gladly help you figure out how to register your marriage and what comes next for your taxes.
How do you remove conditions on a green card?
The typical way to remove conditions on your green card is to file the I-751 form to petition jointly with your spouse.
You have to submit proof of your good-faith marriage from the date that you got your green card and onward. It’s not necessary to re-submit all the documents you already sent to get your green card before you went to the interview. All of that good-faith marriage evidence doesn't need to be presented again since it's already in your file.
You will need to present evidence from the date your green card was granted. Whenever you receive your green card, you should be gathering evidence from that day onward. It's all the same type of evidence.
Good-faith marriage evidence should show that you live together or that you co-mingle your finances, like the lease or mortgage statement, bank statements, credit cards, insurances, estate planning documents or any other accounts you share, like cable, telephone, etc.
Any official document or bill that has your name on it and your address from the date you got the green card until the time you're filing will serve you well.
You can file 90 days before the expiration of the green card. A year and nine months after you get the green card, you file Form I-751 with immigration and wait. Around 90% of these cases are approved without an interview. You know you’re approved when your new card arrives in the mail.
The tricky thing about this process is that under the last administration, the processing times grew. In some cases, it's taking longer than two years to get adjudicated now.
On the bright side, it means that the beneficiary (the one with the two-year green card) is now eligible for citizenship before they get the 10-year green card. Eligibility for citizenship begins three years after you get your green card if you're married to a US citizen.
Some of our clients file the I-751 form and while it's still pending, we file a citizenship application and they end up getting adjudicated together.
Is it required to file the I-751 or can you just file for citizenship?
You cannot avoid filing the I-751 form. We've worked with clients who got the two-year green card years ago and they separated from their partner, but they never removed the conditions.
So when they get married to a new U.S. citizen and wish to get their green card through the new marriage instead, they are unable to do so. They have to explain to immigration what happened and fix the initial residence.
The timing can be stressful for people, but the actual filing of the application is not. This is not the same as getting your green card for the first time. We've done hundreds of these cases over the years and never had one denied at our firm. That should serve to show you that they're not difficult to overcome.
Can I file on my own?
If you don't have any complicating factors, like you’ve left the country for a long time, or you’ve had police contact in the past for any reason or you're still living together and have all the evidence, you can file it on your own. We call this a clean case.
The benefit of working with a lawyer is that you may have better timing. Because the cases take so long, we have had to get involved in our client's cases.
After you get the I-751 receipt it may automatically extend your green card for 18 months.
If it takes longer than 18 months, you may need an Infopass appointment or your employer may need a letter from your lawyer. If you have us file it for you, we're there with you all the way through for whatever comes up, giving you peace of mind as we make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible.
What is the difference between the I-90 and the I-751 forms?
The Form I-90 is to renew your regular green card that doesn't have any conditions on it, like a ten-year green card. If you file a I-90 instead of an I-751 that could generate some repercussions.
It's an easy mistake to make if you don't know what you're doing.
If you have a two-year green card and you're removing conditions, you have to file the I-751. If you file an I-90 instead, you lose a lot of money and a lot of time.
Unfortunately, you don't know when you filed the wrong form until you get a denial on the I-90, which can take nine months to a year. After much time and money spent, you will have to start over with Form I-751.
These are the types of mistakes that don’t happen when you work with a law firm. Minor mistakes (i.e., forms that are filled out incorrectly, payments done wrong, sent to the wrong address, etc.) have massive impacts on immigration cases because it takes the agency so long to notify people of mistakes.
Either it takes three months and you get a request for evidence or it takes around two months and you get a rejection and you have to start over. The worst case scenario with an I-90 that's been misfiled is that it can get you almost all the way through the end until an officer adjudicates it and realizes it is the wrong form. It's these little things that can have massive impacts on processing times.
In most cases, it might be better to file for citizenship rather than for a renewal of the green card. The most common barrier for people is language. However, if they're not feeling fluent enough in English or if they're ineligible for other reasons, it’s correct to renew the green card rather than file for citizenship.
How does this affect my children? Do they get a conditional green card? Is it the same process to remove their conditions?
Minors are treated the same as their parents. They are considered “derivatives” and they're included in the application. They won’t need to file to get their green card because they're immediate relatives, however, once it’s time to remove conditions, you will file Form I-751 for the parent and each kid. We’ll include them as derivatives on the removal of conditions.
When we get to Step Three for citizenship, there is no need to file additional applications for kids because they will automatically become citizens.
What is the Waiver of the Joint Filing Requirement?
Sometimes, in the interim of the two year wait to remove conditions on a green card, the marriage ends. When this happens, you’ll need a Waiver of the Joint Filing Requirement to move forward on your own without your spouse.
To anyone who's reading this with a two-year green card and is worried about their future:
If your marriage is unstable, remember that you don't have to stay in a marriage to obtain your green card.
We have never lost one of these cases!
If you have the two-year green card, you don't have to stay in a marriage in order to extend your status. We can help you remove conditions on your marriage, even if you've separated or divorced.
When will I need to submit the Waiver?
- Your marriage began in good faith, but your spouse passed away.You can file Form I-751 on your own. You don't need anything from your spouse -- no signature, documents or cooperation -- for this process. You can do this completely on your own.
- Your marriage began in good faith, but the marriage was later terminated due to divorce or annulment.You can file the form if your divorce is in process, and then you have to submit the final divorce decree when you have it. You have to be in the divorce process to qualify. File at the same time as you would file the joint petition: three months before the expiration of your two-year green card.
- Your marriage began in good faith, but you have been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by your spouse.
Extreme cruelty is a whole lot more than just physical abuse. It can be emotional, verbal, sexual or financial abuse. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t filed a police report. You don't have to have evidence of medical treatment. If your spouse is trying to control and manipulate you by telling you who you can be around or telling you who you can talk to, you do not have to remain in a marriage like that to preserve your green card. You can leave that relationship and file on your own.
Your spouse doesn't even have to know about it! You can get removal of your conditions under this waiver. We've done hundreds of these cases and have never had one denied at our firm.
4. If the termination of your green card would result in extreme hardship, you could qualify for removal of conditions, although it is very rare.
Extreme hardship in the world of immigration is something that's beyond the separation of a family, which is counterintuitive. For an extreme hardship case, you have to show something terrible would happen to you if you returned to your country - similar to an asylum case.
The two cases that we do most commonly are good-faith marriages that end in divorce or spouses who are battered or subject to extreme cruelty. There are a lot of people who would qualify for both.
You can mark both boxes on the application, but the big difference between the two, other than evidence of cruelty, is the timing. If you're filing under a cruelty waiver, you can submit it at any time, no matter how small amount of time ago you've gotten your green card. The moment you realize you’re not safe in your marriage and make the decision to leave, we can help you. If you need help with safety planning, we can refer you to an organization that can help you with that.
Before you leave the marriage, you will need to prepare documents to prove the cruelty through an affidavit or witness statements. Gather all text message exchanges, email exchanges, and evidence for the time that you were living together after you got your green card.
Under the immigration law called VAWA, immigration officials cannot talk to the abusive spouse about the immigration case. If you file a cruelty waiver, immigration can not tell your spouse about it. They can't accept any information from your spouse about you nor will they make any decisions based on that. You can feel protected that they cannot harm you.
We can file the removal of conditions before the two year mark and we can put you on the pathway to get your permanent status. If you miss the two-year deadline and your two-year card has expired, you can still file it late with evidence that explains why it was late.
We know how to handle these kinds of things with ease and we want to help you! If anyone you may know is in this situation, please share this with them. Call or text us anytime to set up a free consultation to discuss your situation: 512-599-8500.