A step-by-step guide to upgrading a conditional green card using Form I-751
While most green cards have a lifespan of 10 years, and can be renewed indefinitely, some people receive conditional green cards. These cards are valid for only two years, and are issued to people who are obtaining a permanent residence through a marriage that is less than two-years-old.
These conditional cards cannot be renewed, and before the cards expire, the holder must file to upgrade to a permanent green card using Form I-751 (“Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”).
Not sure if your green card is conditional? Check the front of your card. If “CR1” appears on the front under the ‘Category’ heading, it is a conditional green card. Each card has an expiration date. If your card has an expiration date of only two years, it is a conditional card.
Note that entrepreneurs who obtained a conditional green card through investment need to file Form I-829.
In this guide you will learn:
1. What is Form I-751?
2. Who Needs to File It?
3. When to File Form I-751
4. How to Apply
6. What Happens Next?
What Does Form I-751 Do?
Form I-751 confirms whether the applicant’s marriage is genuine, and was not entered into fraudulently in order for one spouse to get a green card. The information provided allows U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to assess the legitimacy of the marriage.
If your marriage ended during the two-year period of a conditional green card, you can still file to have the conditions removed. You’ll still need to demonstrate that your marriage was genuine.
Do I Need to File Form I-751?
If you were granted a conditional green card during the first two years of your marriage, the answer is yes, you need to file Form I-751. This application must be made before the expiration of your conditional green card. Everyone granted a conditional green card must file a form I-751 or risk losing their permanent resident status.
When to File Form I-751
If Form I-751 is not filed before your conditional green card expires, you could lose your permanent resident status. It must be filed prior to the expiration date. The right time to file is determined by whether you are filing jointly with a spouse or individually due to a change in relationship status.
Most of the time, Form I-751 is filed jointly by the spouse to whom it was issued and the sponsoring spouse who is a U,S. citizen or permanent resident.
In these circumstances, Form I-751 must be filed no earlier than the 90-day period prior to a conditional green card’s expiration. As an example, if your green card expired on December 1, 2021, Form I-751 must be filed no earlier than September 1, 2021 and no later than December 1, 2021.
Relationship statuses change. Life happens, including relationships ending and sadly, a spouse dying, but this does not mean you cannot file to remove the conditional status of your green card. People filing individually can file at any time after a conditional green card is issued. This also applies to people who are survivors of abuse.
My card’s expired!
There are a few reasons in which the U.S. government accepts the I-751 form after a green card has expired. You will need to provide a letter and any supporting documents explaining why the filing happened after the deadline. It takes what USCIS describes as “extraordinary circumstances” beyond the applicant’s control, and a form filed with only a reasonable delay for the U.S. government to approve these applications.
Completing Form I-751
Form I-751 must either be typed or filled out in black ink by hand. Upon completion, the form should be mailed to an address determined by your state of residence. You can find the correct address here. USCIS will reject forms submitted with incorrect or incomplete fees, the wrong edition date, missing fields, or if you forget to sign or sign in the wrong place. The good news is that filling out the form is pretty straightforward.
Part I: Information about you
This section collects basic information, such as your contact information, including mailing and physical addresses, and marital status. It also includes some questions that are not quite as easy to answer, including:
- Alien Registration Number (or A-Number) — This number appears on your green card, as the “USCIS#” and is also on any past correspondence with USCIS.
- USCIS Online Account Number — This number is available if you have used USCIS online services in the past. Simply log in to your account and find your number on your profile page. (Only online service users will have this number, it is not a hold up if you do not have one.)
- Mailing and Physical Addresses — There are appropriate places to include where you live, and if it’s different, where you receive your mail. If someone collects your mail for you, include their name on line 15.a, under “In Care Of Name.”
Part 2: Biographic information
This section of form asks for information like age, height, eye color and ethnicity.
Part 3: Basis for petition
In this section, you will indicate whether you are filing jointly with a spouse or parent, by checking the “Joint Filling” box.
For those filing as an individual, this is the opportunity to explain why you are not filing with your spouse.
Parts 4 and 5: Information about your spouse and children
In Part 4, provide the requested information about the sponsoring relative, whether they are a spouse or a parent, who helped you obtain your conditional green card.
In Part 5, provide the requested information for any children you may have. Go straight to part 6 if you do not have children.
Part 6: Accommodations for individuals with disabilities and impairments
USCIS collects information in this section on any disabilities or impairments an applicant might have, and which would require accommodation by U.S. authorities.
Parts 7 and 8: Applicant and spouse acknowledgements and signatures
Spouses will be asked to attest that all the information on the form is correct and truthful. The applicant, also known as the petitioner, will fill out Part 7, as well as sign and date the form. Part 8 is filled out and signed by the spouse, parent or guardian, whichever is applicable.
Parts 9 and 10: Interpreter and preparer information
Anyone who aided in the preparation of Form I-751, such as an interpreter, or lawyer, must fill out these sections.
What Else Should Be Included in the Form I-751 Filing
When you mail your completed Form I-751, you will also need to include some supporting documentation:
- Copies of the front and back of your current green card, as well as the same for any children included on the I-751.
- Documents proving that your marriage was entered into in good faith. For example, mortgage or lease documents that demonstrate that a couple still live together or evidence of shared assets, such as joint bank accounts, or joint tax filings, even voided checks showing the same address for both spouses. Birth certificates of children born since your marriage, or even family photographs and sworn affidavits from friends are also accepted.
- If you’re filing as an individual instead of jointly, provide evidence to support your reasons for not filing jointly (if applicable). This could include a death certificate; a finalized divorce decree; or official documentation showing that you or your children suffered domestic abuse.
- If you are filing after the deadline, remember to include a letter, and any supporting documentation, explaining why.
- Those filing overseas due to military or government service should enclose 2 passport-style photographs, completed Form FD-258 fingerprint cards, and a copy of current military or government orders. Additionally, write “ACTIVE MILITARY” or “GOVERNMENT ORDERS” on the top ofForm I-751.
- For more instructions, visit USCIS Form I-751 instruction page.
Fees for Form I-751
The fees for filing Form I-751 are:
- One-time filing fee of $595
- Biometric fee for applicants of $85, and an additional $85 for each dependent included on the form. (Fee waivers can be requested for special circumstances.)
Fees may be paid by check, cashier’s check or money order. If you are filing at a USCIS Lockbox facility, credit card payment is available through Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.
What Happens Next?
USCIS will send a notice, by mail, that they have received your Form I-751; this is the Form I-797. Form I-797 can be presented along with your conditional green card to extend its validity for up to 18 months as you wait for an update in status. If asked to prove your U.S. residence status, you must provide both Form I-797 and your green card.
You will also receive details about a biometrics appointment, such as time, date and location. Additionally, you may be asked to attend an interview with a USCIS official. In general, this is being waived if the application proves that the marriage is genuine and in good standing.
This is handy because processing times for the I-751 are not consistent, and can sometimes take more than three years to complete. There is the possibility that even the extended date on Form-797 might expire before your status is updated. When under consideration, your green card will remain valid until your I-751 petition status is resolved.
If, during the review process, USCIS decides further information is needed, they will send a Request for Evidence letter. This will further delay the process.
If your petition is approved, USCIS will mail a notice of approval, and then a new 10-year, renewable green card.
Some people may become eligible for naturalization before they receive their updated green card, since the time as a conditional green card holder usually counts toward the time needed to qualify for citizenship. In order to begin the process, file an N-400 naturalization application along with the I-797 and request that USCIS process both simultaneously,
Form I-751 statuses can be checked here. After entering the correct information, including your application number, select “I-751 Remove Conditions” under “case type.”