The USCIS Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, enables “conditional” US residents that obtained their “status” (or lawful right to be in the US) by marrying a US citizen or green card holder to request that the conditions on their residence be removed. Once these conditions are removed, the foreign national becomes a lawful permanent resident. Essentially, the I-751 allows a foreign national who lawfully came to the US through marriage, and received a conditional two-year green card, to permanently remain in the US by proving their marriage was real. A denial of the 751 can render an immigrant deportable.
Like most immigration forms, the I-751 should be completed correctly, submitted on-time, and include sufficient evidence to prove that the marriage on which the conditional permanent resident status was obtained was “bona fide” – meaning it was true, genuine and entered into with affection and a good faith desire to build a family. The technical filing, its timing and what is required to support its approval are the three key elements involved.
First, the I-751 is typically a “joint petition” – meaning that both spouses (the US citizen and the foreign national) file it together. In some instances, however, a joint filing many not be possible. This frequently happens where a divorce or domestic abuse is involved. In such circumstances, conditional residents may request that the joint filing requirement be waived.
Second, the I-751 must be filed within a specific period of time. That time begins 90 days before the expiration of the conditional resident’s two-year green card and ends with the green card’s expiration. For example, if a foreign national’s two-year conditional residence expires on December 31, the period of time in which the I-751 must be filed starts on October 2 and ends on December 31. If the I-751 petition is not filed by the day the two-year period expires, the conditional resident becomes deportable. Therefore, filing the petition within the 90-day period before status expires is important. For those seeking a waiver, there is more flexibility. To make sure you are filing in the correct window, consult the USCIS 751 filing calculator:
Third, the purpose of the I-751 petition is to verify that the marriage is real. Therefore, submitting strong evidence that shows that the marriage is genuine is critical. This evidence can take many forms, including wedding and family photographs, joint bank statements, joint leases or mortgages, joint insurance policies, joint credit card accounts and letters from friends and family. In most cases, the couple are required to appear for in person interviews to answer questions. These are all done to test the credibility of the marriage.
The whole process can take between one or two years, sometimes longer depending on the individual case and processing center involved. Once the government approves the Form I-751, the conditional resident becomes a lawful permanent resident (LPR) and receives a ten-year green card. Given the length of time involved in processing an I-751 application, some applicants who want to become US citizens, can file an N-400 while the 751 is still pending. That way, both the I-751 and the N-400 can be approved based on a single interview.