While many immigrants come to the United States to marry their American husband or wife, those spouses who have been married for less than two years at the time immigration authorities officially bestow legal status, may merely obtain conditional permanent residency. Federal immigration law sets this initial durational limit on the practice of gaining permanent residency through marriage as a means to deter people from using the institution of matrimony strictly as a pretext to become permanent residents. But if the necessary procedural hurdles are met, the residency status can be converted to actual permanent residency.
For spouses who remain married for more than two years, the spouse can apply to remove the conditions on their status. What is required is that both spouses jointly file Form I-751 during the ninety (90) days before the second anniversary of achieving conditional status. As their original green card shows an expiration date reflecting that second anniversary, the card itself can serve as a reminder of the need to proceed with getting this form filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It should be noted the children of the conditional permanent resident spouse can also have their status changed by filing this Form I-751 for each of them.
If the marriage is finished or in trouble at the end of this two-year period, the process for removing the conditional status may entail more than getting the proper paperwork filed on time. For spouses who (1) entered into the marriage in good faith, but the marriage ended through divorce or annulment; or (2) entered into the marriage in good faith, but either the spouse or the spouse’s child(ren) were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by the U.S.-citizen or permanent-resident spouse, such spouses can also achieve actual permanent status. But it needs to be noted that, in such instances, the USCIS will require this showing that the marriage was genuine; i.e., not a sham. In these situations, as in the situation of widows who wish to have their residency made permanent, it will be necessary to demonstrate the “good faith” element of the relationship. It is advisable that individuals facing these predicaments retain an immigration attorney experienced in securing permanent residency for his or her clients. Legal counsel should also be consulted to ensure all procedural requirements are duly met as this article is not intended as an exhaustive list of all such requirements.
The Shulman Law Group, LLC has successfully prepared and filed many petitions on behalf of its clients who wish to live in the United States.