Following the grant of a 2-year conditional lawful permanent resident status based upon marriage, an applicant must file an application to Remove the Conditions. This process is done to ascertain whether the marriage that a person gets a greencard through is a valid and good faith marriage, rather than one done to evade immigration laws. Usually, the Citizenship Immigration Services office sends over a notification to the immigrant that this date is forthcoming. However, the CIS office does not typically forward these reminder notices if an individual has moved and did not update their address in the USCIS database. This must be done within the 90 days prior to the 2 year expiration to be considered timely. If successful, the lawful permanent status will then become permanent and give a 10-year time period on the greencard before expiration.
Although these cases appear seemingly simple, as it only involves the preparation of one application, there is much more involved. Many individuals, unfortunately, fail to include the critical documents to have the case approved. Moreover, the documents included are sent in a disorganized format, which in the end can cause longer processing times, misplaced documents and sometimes a denial. The latter seems to happen with some frequency. This office receives inquires from clients who have filed their own applications with documents, who receive a document called a Request for Additional Evidence from the CIS office. This document, usually on blue paper has a strict deadline for compliance. Failing to reply in time, typically results in a denied application, and can lead to removal proceedings being instituted against the immigrant.
Quite often couples believe that since their marriage is clearly intact that the immigration office is unlikely to question their marriage. This is wholly untrue. Too often, couples take this very important immigration process for granted, which ultimately leads to unexpected results. It is important to note, the immigration office scrutinizes every single marriage case, both at the initial filing stage (conditional greencard) and the second stage (removal of the condition). No matter how strong the relationship of the couple appears to others, the immigration office has its own manner of reviewing the marriage to determine if it is in good faith.
The following are a few tips to follow when submitting these applications:
- Don’t forget to sign the document and have your spouse sign.
- Send the application and filing fee before the deadline, allow for mail delays and slow receipt issuance.
- Maintain a copy of every single piece of paper you submit and any documents you receive from USCIS after filing.
- Send the application and any follow-up documents in some type of secure mail format, so you have proof that the documents were received.
- Send in Tax transcripts showing you filed as a married couple, this is the best proof of joint tax filings, not the tax returns, or an accountant letter.
- Organize your documents very neatly and enclose a detailed list of them.
- Include items concerning your marriage from the time the conditional greencard was issued forward, not just those recently obtained.
- Monitor the case on-line at USCIS.gov, you can use the receipt number on the left side of the I-797 document you receive for this purpose.
- Update your address if you move, if you do not and your greencard is issued, you will not receive it. USCIS does NOT allow postal forwarding for sending greencards. These cards are extremely valuable and USCIS recognizes the value.
- Follow up with USCIS every few months, this process is not fast, it can sometimes take one year or more. Remember USCIS is checking the validity of your marriage through background checks and based upon your documentation.
Before applying for any immigration benefits, you should consult with a qualified attorney who can guide you through the process.