What Are Conditional Green Cards for Spouses?


In some cases, couples find themselves in international relationships. If you’re an immigrant who has arrived in the U.S. on a marriage-based visa, it’s crucial to understand that your immigration status will be considered conditional before you can become a permanent U.S. resident. Due to the concerns that a foreign national has entered into a marriage for the wrong reasons, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will closely examine whether the marriage is bona fide before becoming a lawful permanent resident. Please continue reading to learn why you will begin life in the U.S. on conditional residency and how our proficient Essex County Family Immigration Attorneys can help guide you through this complex process. 

What is the Purpose of U.S. Conditional Residency for Marriage-Based Green Cards?

Firstly, it’s essential to understand that in any marriage-based green card application, USCIS will look closely at your international relationship to determine whether it’s genuine or just a sham. Due to the significant concern for marriage fraud, immigration law gives USCIS a second chance to assess the validity of the marriage. This is done by initially categorizing the new immigrant as a “conditional,” not a “permanent” resident. Therefore, if a foreign national has been married to a U.S. citizen for less than two years when you either arrived in the U.S. on an immigrant visa or adjusted your status to that of a lawful permanent resident, you will begin life in America as a conditional resident.

While categorized differently, conditional and permanent residents have the same rights. They can accept employment without having to apply for a work permit and travel in and out of the U.S. The only significant difference is that conditional residency will expire after a two-year “testing” period. Before expiration, you must apply for permanent status and prove that the marriage is authentic. The application will require proof that the marriage is ongoing and that you’ve established a life together in the U.S.

How Do I Remove Conditions On My U.S. Residency?

As mentioned above, before your conditional residence period expires, you will have to apply for permanent status. It’s crucial to note that this petition must be filed within 90 days before your conditions of residence. To initiate the process, you must submit a joint petition with your U.S. citizen spouse on Form I-751, “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.” You must provide supporting documentation proving your marriage is the real thing. This may include joint leases, bank accounts, and even birth certificates for children born into the marriage. In some cases, USCIS will interview an international couple to take a closer look at the legitimacy of the marriage. If USCS determines the marriage is not real, you could lose status entirely and face deportation.

If you’re a conditional resident, please don’t hesitate to contact a trusted attorney from the Law Offices of Christopher T. Howell, Esq., who can help you navigate towards your goals of permanent status.