Filing Form I-751 may be your only chance to live happily ever after with your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, at least when it comes to your residency in the United States. If you’ve been married for less than two years to your U.S. citizen spouse, you may receive a conditional green card when you apply for one.
This green card expires after two years and can’t be renewed like the usual ten-year green card. When it expires, you may have no choice but to go back to your home country.
Fortunately, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows you to change your status from a conditional resident to a lawful permanent resident within a certain period. You can do that by filing form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence).
In this article, we’ll discuss more details about Form I-751, covering:
- What is Form I-751?
- When to file Form I-751
- Form I-751 instructions
- What to expect after filing
What Is Form I-751?
Form I-751 is officially known as the Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence and is used to convert a conditional resident status to lawful permanent resident status.
Rather than the usual renewable green card, some marriage-based green card applicants receive a two-year non-renewable green card, commonly known as the conditional green card or CR-1.
The USCIS issues a conditional green card to immigrants who have been married for less than two years to their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. Similarly, immigrant children whose parents have a conditional green card will also get the same type of green card as their parents.
With this green card, eligible immigrants become conditional permanent residents instead of lawful permanent residents. Its sole purpose is to give the USCIS a chance to review and validate the union as a bona fide marriage and rule out the possibility of immigration fraud.
Although both green cards provide applicants with the same rights and privileges, the CR-1 card expires after two years and can’t be renewed. So instead, you will need to file Form I-175 within a 90-day window period before the card expires to change the residency conditions. Failing to petition on time rids you of the permanent residence status, which may force you to leave the country.
When To File Form I-751
You can file form I-751 under one of the following circumstances:
During the 90-Day Window Period
You must file Form I-751 within the last 90 days before the conditional status expires, not earlier or later. For example, if the green card expiration date is December 31, 2022, you can file the form any day between October 2, 2022, and December 31, 2022.
At Any Time
Married couples must jointly file this petition. In case of a divorce, annulment, abuse, or sponsor’s death, the immigrant spouse can petition independently at any time before or within the 90-day window period. However, they must have sufficient evidence showing why they can’t jointly file the form with their spouse.
After the 90-Day Window Period
Generally, filing late isn’t recommended. However, there are a few exceptional cases where the U.S. government may let you file after the 90-day window period has expired. You must write a letter to the USCIS explaining why you missed the filing deadline. Unfortunately, there’s no telling whether or not the USCIS will accept your application.
Form I-751 Filing Instructions
You need to pay attention to details when completing Form I-751 to avoid regrettable mistakes. This form contains different sections and requires several signatures and information to complete. Missing signatures and skipping parts of this document can lead to rejection. Unfortunately, you won’t recover your filing fee either. To avoid such losses, it may be a good idea to work with a competent immigration attorney to help you complete the file efficiently.
Here’s how to complete Form I-751.
Part 1: Conditional Resident Information
The first part of form I-475 collects personal information about you, the conditional green card holder. This information includes your name, date of birth, address, marital status, country of origin, and so on. You will also input your A-number and your USCIS online account number. It’s possible to get confused about these two forms of identification numbers if you don’t know where to find them.
The A-number refers to the Alien Registration Number. You can find it on the part labeled USCIS# on the green card. The number is also part of the characters embedded at the back of the card.
The Uscis Online Account Number
This number isn’t the same as the Alien Registration Number on your card. Instead, it refers to the online account number issued by USCIS after accessing the USCIS Electronic Immigration System. To find it, you have to log in to your USCIS online account and check for the account number under your profile.
The Mailing and Physical Address
Your mailing address and physical address may also be different. If you live in a different location from where you receive your mails, you need to record the two addresses separately. If someone else receives your mail on your behalf, you should input their name on the “In Care of Name” section. Indicating accurate contact information helps the USCIS application support center reach you conveniently to avoid missing any communication.
Part 2: Biographic Information
The second part of form I-751 collects your biographic information. These include descriptive information such as your eye color, ethnicity, weight, height, race, hair color, and more.
Part 3: Basis of the Petition
This part has two sections for the details about the basis of the petition. In the joint filing section, you should check the spouse box if you are filing with your partner. If you are filing with your parent, you must check the parent box.
The second section of this part is for waiver or individual filing requests, where you can check multiple boxes depending on your circumstances. These boxes indicate the reasons why you are filing independently, including:
- your spouse is deceased;
- you got a divorce or an annulment;
- your spouse battered or subjected you to extreme cruelty;
- your parent’s spouse battered or subjected you to extreme cruelty; or if
- terminating your status and removal from the U.S. will cause you extreme hardship.
Part 4: Information About the U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Spouse
This section collects personal information about the U.S. citizen spouse or permanent resident that sponsored your conditional residence application. It includes their name, address, Social Security Number, A-number, date of birth, and so on.
This information is required regardless of whether or not you are still together with your U.S. citizen spouse. The same applies to a stepchild completing this form.
In the section, an applicant must select one of the two checkboxes that indicate how they relate to the U.S. citizen spouse. One box is for spouses (or former spouses), and the other is for the parent’s spouse (or former parent’s spouse).
Part 5: Children Information
This section is relevant for applicants who have children. You can skip this part and go to the next if you don’t have children.
In addition to a child’s personal information, you also need to indicate whether or not they live with you and if they are also filing form I-751.
Part 6: Accommodations for Individuals with Disabilities and Impairments
If you require specialized accommodation due to your physical disability or impairment, you can state that under this section. For example, you may need a sign language interpreter for yourself, your spouse, or your children included in the application.
Part 7: Petitioner and Spouse Statement and Signature
This section has four parts including the:
- petitioner’s certification;
- petitioner’s signature;
- spouse’s statement; and
- spouse’s contact information.
Part 7 is where you certify that the information you have submitted is complete, true, and correct. By signing this section, you authorize the USCIS to retrieve and use any of your immigration records to determine your eligibility. You also allow other government agencies to access any information you provide to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Lastly, you acknowledge that you can provide original documents of the attached copies to the USCIS whenever needed.
If your petition is based on being subject to cruelty, battery, or any form of abuse from your spouse or parent’s spouse, their signatures are not needed.
Part 8: Spouse Statement, Contact Information, and Signature
If you are jointly filing form I-751, this is the section where you input your spouse’s contact information and signature. You don’t have to complete this section or acquire the sponsor’s signature if you are an independent petitioner.
Part 9 and Part 10: Interpreter’s Information
If someone helped you prepare your application forms, such as an attorney or interpreter, you need to provide their details in these sections. Ensure that they append their signatures and dates in the right boxes.
Part 11: Additional Information
This section is for inputting more information when you run out of space in any part of the form. For example, if you need extra space to add details of more dependents on the list.
Form I-751 Initial Evidence Requirements
Besides completing Form I-751, the USCIS requires you to provide documents to support your petition. Therefore, you should submit replicate forms with your petition unless the USCIS requests for original documents at this stage.
The initial evidence required for filing form I-751 includes:
1) Permanent Residency Card
You must include a copy of your permanent resident card or alien registration card. Ensure that you take clear copies of both sides of the card.
2) Evidence of Bona Fide Marriage
Even if your marriage with the green card sponsoring spouse ended, the USCIS still needs you to prove that your marriage was a good faith marriage and not immigration fraud. There are several documents you can provide as evidence, but depending on the circumstances of the petition, the USCIS may require specific documents.
Here are the supporting documents needed if you jointly file form i-751:
- photographs of the couple together;
- joint credit card statements;
- joint mortgage or lease statements;
- evidence of living together;
- children’s birth certificates where applicable;
- evidence of joint bank accounts;
- family photos featuring the couple;
- written statements from friends and family, and;
- utility statements and bills in the couple’s names.
If you are filing independently, the USCIS will require more documents corresponding to the information you provide in part 3 of the form.
Typically, independent filing results from a terminated marriage, death, or separation.
If your marriage ended due to a divorce or an annulment, you should provide evidence of the following where applicable:
- a divorce certificate;
- an annulment decree;
- evidence of abuse, battery, or extreme cruelty; or
- statement why your marriage ended.
If your spouse is deceased, you need to add a death certificate to the supporting documents.
The USCIS allows you to file a petition to remove conditions on a residence even if you are separated but not divorced. However, such situations may come with numerous challenges, especially if the sponsoring spouse isn’t cooperative enough. You may need the help of an immigration attorney to file and meet all the USCIS requirements amicably.
Exceptions of Form I-751 Instructions and Additional Supporting Documents
Conditional resident residents living abroad due to military or government orders and dependents listed on part 5 of form I-751 need to include the following documents:
- copies of the official government or military orders;
- passport size photos for each petitioner or dependent regardless of age; and
- completed Form FD 258 (fingerprint cards) for applicants aged 14 to 79, prepared by a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate, USCIS Office, or U.S. military installation.
The USCIS requires you to submit some records if you have a criminal history in the U.S. or abroad, whether or not you were charged, convicted, or placed in an alternative sentencing program.
In cases where there were no charges after an arrest or detention, you must submit an official statement from the arresting agency or the official court orders to confirm this claim. If charged, you must submit an official court order or a court-certified copy of the records, such as an acquittal order, conviction record, or dismissal order.
In case you were convicted, sentenced, or placed on an alternative rehabilitation program, you must submit the original or certified copies of the following:
The sentencing record for each conviction may include:
- probation or parole record;
- evidence of completion of the rehabilitation or alternative sentencing program;
- court order vacating, removing, sealing, or otherwise removing the arrest or conviction; or
- if the court has no records, you must provide an original statement indicating that no records exist.
Form I-751 Filing Fees
The USCIS updates Form I-751 filing fees from time to time. You can use the online fee calculator tool to determine the current filing fees for your petition.
Besides filing fees, petitioners must also pay for biometric services the USCIS will schedule later in the process. These fees also apply to the permanent resident dependents included in part 5 of the petition and dependents living abroad under military or government orders.
All payments must be drawn in a bank or a financial institution in the United States and addressed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Ensure that you spell out the agency’s name in full rather than using initials such as USDHS or DHM.
You must use the U.S. currency to pay for these fees in their exact amounts as checks or money orders. If you live abroad, consult with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for instructions on the payment method you should use.
The USCIS doesn’t accept cash payments sent with the application. The government agency also doesn’t refund these fees regardless of its decision.
Where to File Form I-751
After preparing your documents and paying the required fees, you can visit the USCIS website to find the most current information about where to mail the petition. Remember, the USCIS may reject your petition if you miss information, documents, or vital filing instructions. Therefore, before filing your application, conduct a final review to ensure you submit the following:
- a completed form i-751 (check if you have completed and signed all parts correctly);
- evidence of bona fide marriage;
- copies of your green card; and
- proof of payment for filing fees and biometric services fees.
What Happens After Filing Form I-751?
You will receive a receipt notice from the USCIS after about 4 to 6 weeks from the filing date. Next, the USCIS will set a biometrics appointment date approximately 1 to 4 weeks later, which you must attend. The documents to bring with you to the biometrics examination include:
- your passport or national photo identification of your country of origin;
- state-issued identification;
- military photo identification (if applicable); and
- driver’s license.
The biometrics examination isn’t the same as the Form I-751 interview appointment. Its purpose is to collect your biometrics information to facilitate criminal background checks. However, if you have a criminal history, you may want to talk to an immigration attorney for legal advice before your biometrics appointment. Ensure that you attend this appointment to avoid losing valuable time that may affect the processing timelines of your petition.
Depending on the circumstances of your petition, the USCIS may invite or waive your Form I-751 interview. If they require more evidence, they will mail you a Request For Evidence (RFE) about a month or two before setting up your interview appointment.
In most cases, the USCIS waives interviews for jointly filed petitions with substantial proof of a bona fide marriage. However, that only happens if your petition meets all the filing instructions.
Attending your scheduled interview is very important. The USCIS may decide to terminate your application for failing to honor this interview, leading to possible deportation.
How Long Does It Take to Remove Conditions on A Green Card?
The processing time for Form i-751 may take anywhere between 12 to 18 months from the filing date to complete. If the USCIS approves your application, you will receive a 10-year renewable green card via mail.
If your application is unsuccessful, the USCIS will mail you a notice explaining the reasons for the denial. Some of these reasons may include:
- lack of substantial proof of bona fide marriage;
- failure to attend the interview;
- filing too early or too late;
- marriage is an immigration fraud;
- inadmissible due to criminal activity; and
- U.S. citizen spouse’s refusal to attend the interview or file the petition jointly.
Your denial may include a Notice To Appear (NTA) summoning you to appear before an immigration court for a removal proceeding, commonly called deportation. This proceeding may lead to your deportation, but it also provides you with an opportunity to submit more evidence if the denial was due to insufficient evidence.
You may need to contact your immigration attorney to review your Form I-751 and provide the best legal strategy. Since a Form I-751 denial based on insufficient evidence isn’t a final decision, your case may require several hearings before arriving at the final decision. Depending on how you prepare your case, you may have a chance to finally remove conditions on your green card.