I just got back from the 32nd annual conference for the California Chapters of AILA. I was asked to lead a discussion panel on the current trends in the field of I-751 – the petition to remove conditions for permanent residency. Oftentimes, I hear from people not familiar with immigration law that you can just marry a U.S. citizen and then you become a citizen. This is far from the case.
First, you must apply for a green card. If your marriage is less than two years old at the time the green card is granted, you receive conditional residency. This conditional residency requires that you apply to remove the conditions when you have had conditional residency for two years. You must submit form I-751 and joint documents to prove that the marriage is legitimate. This process is time consuming and stressful.
USCIS is reporting the processing time for I-751 at about a year and a half. Obviously, during this time the conditional resident does not have a valid green card. They must rely on the expired green card and the receipt notice from the I-751 as proof as extending the status. However, it can be difficult explaining to other agencies or countries that this piece of paper is as legitimate as a green card.
It is also possible to get a stamp in your passport proving you have legal permanent resident status, but USCIS has made the process of obtaining this stamp more and more difficult over the years.
Aside from the lengthy time this process takes, USCIS is requiring more and more proof that the couple is in a bona fide marriage. This can be difficult in a world where more and more people keep separate accounts and assets.
My panel also discussed the now common procedure of applying for citizenship while the I-751 is pending. The process can present a logistical headache, but our office has been successful in making sure it goes smoothly.
If you need to file an I-751 or if you have one pending but our looking to file for naturalization, contact one of our attorneys who would be happy to discuss your case.