If you and your spouse had been married for less than two years at the time your green card (visa) was approved, your green card will be “conditional,” and only valid for two years. Your next step will be to apply for Removal of Conditions and obtain a 10-year green card to become a permanent resident of the United States.
What is a Conditional Green Card?
A conditional green card means you can live and work in the U.S., like any other green card holder, but for only two years before having to update your status again to a full, ten-year green card.
Conditional Green Cards cannot be renewed. You will lose your permanent resident status and will have to leave the United States if your immigration status is not adjusted within the 90-day window before your conditional Green Card expires.
The letters “CR1” on the physical green card stand for “conditional resident.”
What is Conditional Permanent Residency?
A conditional permanent resident receives a non-renewable green card valid for only two years instead of the permanent green card, which is renewable and valid for 10-year periods.
To remove the conditions on your permanent resident status, you must file a petition within the 90-day period before your conditional Green Card expires.
In the case of marriage-based immigration, you’ll once again need to prove that your marriage is real after this two-year period, after which you’ll be able to get a “permanent” green card, valid for 10–year renewable periods. (The letters “IR1” on the physical green card stand for “immediate relative.”)
This guide will cover:
If you or your spouse has conditional permanent residency, you’ll need to file Form I-751, the “Petition to Remove Conditions,” so that you can get a permanent green card. Here are some of the most important things to remember:
- The timing is important. You’ll need to file your I-751 during the 90-day window before your conditional permanent residency expires. Your application will be returned if it’s filed too early, or denied if it’s filed late—and if you can’t show any extenuating circumstances to explain why the application is late.
- The Form I-751 is a joint petition. Both spouses will need to complete the form together, and both spouses need to sign the form.
- You’ll need to include additional evidence that your marriage is real. USCIS expects that since you’ve now been married for two years longer, you’ll have new photos together, new joint financial documentation, and possibly even children together. You should include the same types of evidence that you included with your original green card application, but this should be evidence that you’ve accumulated in the time since your original green card application was approved.
- You’ll need to include a copy of the front and back of your conditional green card, along with the filing fee ($595) and biometrics fee ($85), for a total of $680.
- Before April 7, 2022, it was mandatory for couples to attend an interview with a USCIS officer to remove the conditions on their residency. After April 7, 2022, it is possible that USCIS may choose to waive the interview if the evidence submitting by the couple is strong enough to convince the reviewing officer that the marriage is legitimate.
If you choose to work with Boundless and RapidVisa on your Removal of Conditions (ROC) application, our team will walk you through the required forms and documents so that you can file with confidence. Learn more about what Boundless and RapidVisa do to help.
If you don’t remove the conditions on your permanent residency, you will be “out of status” as soon as your conditional green card expires. You could very likely be placed in deportation proceedings, and in any event you will start accruing “unlawful presence” that could lead to you being barred from the United States for three or ten years if you left and tried to reenter.
There are typically only three reasons that an application to remove the conditions on permanent residency might be denied. They are:
- Filing the application late without providing evidence of extenuating circumstances.
- Failing to provide enough documentation that you and your spouse have built a life together.
- USCIS suspects that your marriage is fraudulent.
It’s possible to avoid all of those reasons for denial by ensuring that you file Form I-751 at the right time, that you provide strong evidence that you’ve built a life with your spouse, and by responding to any Requests for Evidence (RFEs) you get from USCIS. Boundless and RapidVisa can help you track your window to file Form I-751 so you can file in a timely manner and avoid any potential roadblocks or pitfalls. Learn more about what Boundless and RapidVisa do to help.
Every marriage green card applicant who has been married for less than two years receives a conditional green card, also known as “conditional permanent residency.” Practically speaking, a conditional permanent resident has the same rights and privileges as a permanent resident.
Getting a CR1 visa has nothing to do with how much proof of a valid relationship you and your spouse provided, or how convinced U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is that you have a genuine marriage. It does, however, mean that there is one more step to becoming a permanent green card holder. Boundless and our partner RapidVisa can help you complete the Removal of Conditions process and take steps towards becoming a permanent green card holder. Learn more about what Boundless and RapidVisa do to help.
What if we get a divorce?
If your marriage falls apart, you can still apply to remove the conditions on your CR1 visa and get a permanent resident card, but you will need to include a request for a waiver of the requirement that your spouse file the form with you. However, you will still need to prove that the marriage was entered into in good faith and not for immigration purposes.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to include valid evidence that the U.S. citizen or green card holder who sponsored your marriage-based green card application was at fault for the end of the marriage, and/or that he or she was the one who requested the divorce. It’s also a good idea to show attempts to save the marriage, like marriage counseling.
If your marriage ended in divorce before you could file Form I-751, you can submit it at any time before you are deported from the United States—you don’t need to wait for the 90-day window before your conditional permanent residency expires. You should include a copy of your final divorce decree as part of the application packet.
What if my spouse dies?
If your spouse dies before you can remove the conditions on your permanent residency, you will have to file Form I-751 and include a copy of your spouse’s death certificate, as well as any evidence you have of the life you shared together.
In this circumstance, you can file your Form I-751 any time between when your spouse dies and when your green card expires—you don’t need to wait for the 90-day window before your conditional permanent residency expires.
What if I was abused or battered during my marriage?
If your spouse was abusive during your marriage, you can apply to have the conditions on your permanent residency removed without your spouse’s assistance. You should include evidence of the abuse, such as restraining orders, affidavits from domestic violence shelters, photographs and/or medical reports detailing injuries as a result of the abuse, or other evidence. If you have divorced, you should include a copy of your final divorce decree. Learn more about your legal rights.
What if my marriage ended, but termination of my residency will result in “extreme hardship” to me?
This category is the trickiest, because it doesn’t technically require that you prove that your marriage was entered into in good faith, or for reasons other than to get a green card. Instead, you’re asked to prove that you would face “extreme hardship” if you were to have to return to your home country. When USCIS looks at applications that claim “extreme hardship,” it only considers factors that have arisen in the time since your green card was originally approved.
For example, if a civil war started in your home country during the time between when you initially applied for a marriage-based green card and the time when you are applying to remove the conditions on your green card, that might qualify as “extreme hardship.” See this website for more information about extreme hardship.
If more than one of the above special circumstances apply, you can ask USCIS to consider all of them by checking as many boxes on Form I-751 as are relevant to you— for example, if you were in an abusive marriage which ended in divorce, and removal from the United States will cause you extreme hardship, you would check all three boxes on the I-751 to request that USCIS consider all your circumstances when evaluating your application for a 10-year green card.
Marriage fraud has been a concern in U.S. immigration law ever since family ties—and especially marriages—became one of the primary ways to immigrate to the United States. In 1986, the precursor to USCIS estimated that one in three marriages between a U.S. citizen and a foreign national were fraudulent. That same year, Congress began enacting tougher requirements for marriage-based green cards, and introduced the “conditional green card” as part of the effort to deter sham marriages.
As it turns out, the estimate that a third of couples who apply for marriage-based green cards got married solely for immigration reasons was grossly exaggerated. The agency revised its estimates downward, saying that only a relatively small percentage of marriage-based green card applications are fraudulent. Less than one percent of marriage-based green card applications are denied for fraud.
Conditional green cards (CR-1 visas) for newlyweds have remained a part of the U.S. immigration system, even though the concerns about fraud that led to their introduction were overstated. They give USCIS another chance to revisit the authenticity of your relationship and ensure that you have a genuine, or “bona fide,” marriage.