United State citizen spouses and permanent resident spouses have the ability to petition for their foreign spouse to become a lawful permanent resident “green card” holder of the United States. During the course of their relationship most couples immediately petition for the foreign spouse’s permanent residence status in order for the foreign spouse to obtain work authorization and obtain immigration status. For U.S. citizen petitioners, the benefit of applying for the foreign spouse, (who is already in the United States), is that Immigration now has a much shorter processing time for these petitions. The result is that the foreign spouse no longer have to wait the normal 36 months to receive their interview for their green card. The new shorter processing times has been a wonderful benefit for families and their children. However, there is a downside to Immigration’s new expeditious processing times. Foreign spouses who have not reached their two year wedding anniversary at the time that they are scheduled for their interview, will receive a conditional green card. As such, we now a higher number of foreign spouses who have received conditional green cards and they are unaware of the requirements of the application to remove conditions on their green card that must be filed before the expiration of their green card. This month’s article will briefly discuss the common questions associated with conditional green cards.
Question 1: Does the two-year expiration date on my green card signify that I am only a permanent resident for two years?
Answer: The two-year expiration date on your green card signifies that your green card will expire in two years. The two-year expiration is not necessarily tied to the length of your permanent resident “green card” status. The two-year expiration date does signify that you must file your application to remove the conditions on your green card before your card expires. Once you have properly filed said application Immigration will issue a one-year extension letter as proof that you are still a permanent resident “green card holder” while your application to remove conditions is pending. You may also use your one -year extension letter to renew your driver’s license, continue your employment, and travel (domestic & international) if needed. Normally, Immigration can takes a few months up to one year to process the application to remove conditions on your green card. However, Immigration’s processing times may vary and sometimes the processing time will extend beyond a year. In these situations Immigration will keep extending your permanent resident time until they have made a decision on your application.
Question 2: What are the requirements to receive an approval on my application to remove the conditions on my green card?
The application to remove conditions on your green card is a joint petition for both you (the green card holder) and your spouse. In plain terms Immigration’s goal is to decipher if both you and your spouse are still together. Consequently, the application is to be signed by both spouses. Immigration is also looking to see if you have submitted any additional documentation to show that you are both still living as married couple. If you are able to meet your burden of proof through your application and documents then Immigration will approve your case and send you the regular ten-year green card. If you are separated, divorced or if you have been abused by your spouse Immigration may conduct a more detailed review and investigation to ensure that your initial desire to marry your spouse was not based solely to acquire immigration benefits.
Question 3: What happens if I never filed my application to remove the conditions or I submitted my application late (beyond the two-year expiration date of my card)?
In the event that you never filed your application you will have no documentation to show proof of your current permanent resident status. Most states now issue a driver’s license for the length of time on your green card. Therefore, if your green card has expired and you have no proof of current status you will no longer be able to renew your license. In addition, your employer could prevent you from working because they have no documentation that you are still a permanent resident. Moreover, international travel will be problematic as you will have no documentation of current permanent residence status to allow you to regain legal entry into the United States. If you never filed your application Immigration may have revoked your status and the Immigration court may have entered an order of deportation against you. Immigration does permit conditional green card holders to submit their application after the two-year deadline provided that you have a reasonable explanation for the delay.
Question 4: What happens if my application to remove conditions on my green card is denied?
If your application to remove conditions is denied you may submit an appeal or a motion to reconsider/reopen. Furthermore, if your application is denied Immigration may place you in removal proceedings. While in removal proceedings you will have the option to request that the court reconsider your denied application. The Immigration court also has the ability to review your denied application and reinstate your green card or provide you with the opportunity to apply for other immigration benefits, if applicable to your case.
The issues surrounding the conditional green card and the application to remove conditions can be confusing and complicated. However, in most cases applicants experience denials and are placed in removal proceedings simply due to a lack of knowledge of what is required when filing their application to remove the conditions on their green card. To avoid these unfortunate outcomes of denials, revocations, and possible deportation contact my firm prior to the expiration of your green card.
Disclaimer: This article is a broad overview and is provided as a public service. This article is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.
About the Writer:
Safiya Byars ([email protected]) is the senior partner and owner in the Law Office of Safiya Byars (www.byarslawgroup.com). She is an active member of the Caribbean and International communities in Georgia. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Montevallo and received her law degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her office is located at 160 Clairemont Avenue, Ste. 200, Decatur, Georgia 30030. Attorney Byars handles all immigration matters, deportation defense, family law issues, and business formation/litigation. To discuss you case, contact Attorney Byars at 404-992-6506 or 678-954-5809.