United States immigration law has a reputation for being unduly complex. One way we see this come up is in something known as conditional green cards when a U.S. citizen’s spouse applies to be a permanent resident. If you have been looking into getting a United States’ residency through family immigration, please read this blog until the end to learn about conditional green cards. You’ll want to make sure you don’t make any mistakes that might cost you or your spouse your residency. For personalized immigration assistance in obtaining a conditional green card, reach out to a New York City family immigration attorney soon.

How Does a Conditional Green Card Work?

If you have been married less than two full years at the time that you are approved for a green card, then you will receive a conditional green card. Conditional green cards for valid for two years and cannot be renewed like a permanent green card.

In almost every respect, a conditional green card gives you the same rights and responsibilities as a permanent green card. You will be able to live and work in the United States.

The only difference is, as stated, that it can’t be renewed. This means that once two years pass, you will lose the right to reside in the United States if you don’t take action. You must submit another application, this time to remove the “conditional” label from your green card, within 90 days (three months) of the expiration of the conditional green card. The conditional green card system was established by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) due to congressional fears of marriage fraud.

How Does Conditional Residency Become Permanent Residency?

You apply to remove the conditional restriction by proving, as you did to receive the conditional green card, that your marriage is real and valid. If accepted, you will receive a permanent green card, which is only valid for 10 years but can be renewed.

However, if you do not renew within the timeframe, you may be put in removal proceedings. You also won’t be allowed to travel internationally, and USCIS may determine that you chose to quit the process to acquire permanent resident status.

What Is the Application to Remove Conditions Like?

You and your spouse will sign the petition to remove conditions together, as it is a joint petition. With it, you must present documents that your marriage is real. These might include but are not limited to:

  • Property owned jointly
  • Joint leases
  • Joint bank or credit card accounts
  • Utility bills
  • Your children’s birth certificates
  • Affidavits from other parties

Depending on your circumstances, there are also several waivers available to you, though given the skittishness of United States immigration law, you should be aware that your application may be subject to additional scrutiny. If you divorced your spouse when you were supposed to file your petition, you can request a waiver on the requirement of a joint petition. You can also request a waiver if deporting you would cause extreme hardship to a family member you have who is a United States citizen. Furthermore, if you were subject to physical, emotional, or financial abuse from your United States citizen spouse, you can also request a waiver. You do not need to be formally divorced to request this waiver.