U.S. Law Center

Do not forget to remove conditions on marriage-based residency

Becoming a permanent resident of the United States can take years of hard work. If you received your residency through marriage to a citizen, though, you may need to do additional work to preserve your status. That is, you may need to remove the conditions on your residency. 

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services confers conditional residency to individuals who receive their residency before their marriage is at least two years old. Said another way, if you married your spouse fewer than two years before receiving your residency, you likely have conditional status. Before your two-year residency card expires, you must ask government officials to remove the conditions on your residency. 

A joint filing 

Generally, those seeking to remove conditions on residency file a joint petition. That is, you and your spouse both ask government adjudicators to lift the conditions. If your marriage remains intact, the process is relatively simple. Around 90 days before your card expires, you file a form with the appropriate service center. You also likely must attend an interview. While your request to remove conditions is pending, you typically receive an extension of your conditional status. 

An individual filing 

If your marriage ended before your conditional residency expired, you may file a petition to remove conditions without your former spouse’s cooperation. As you may imagine, filing individually requires overcoming certain hurdles. That is, USCIS adjudicators need to see evidence that your initial residency application and marriage were not a sham. Still, individual filings succeed all the time. You should, however, prepare yourself to show one or more of the following: 

  •         You married your spouse in good faith, but he or she died during your two-year conditional residency.
  •         You married your spouse in good faith, but your marriage ended in divorce, annulment or separation during your two-year conditional residency.
  •         You married your spouse in good faith, but you have been the victim of domestic abuse

If you forget to ask the USCIS to remove the conditions on your residency, you may be asking for trouble. Put simply, you may be at increased risk of removal proceedings. Fortunately, as long as you married your spouse in good faith, you probably have a good case for removing conditions whether your marriage continues or has ended. To minimize problems, though, you must file your request 90 days before your conditional residency expires.

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