Most green cards last 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely. But if you were married less than 2 years when you obtained permanent residence through marriage, you likely received a “conditional” green card valid for just 2 years.
Before it expires, you’ll need to file Form I-751 (officially called the “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”) in order to receive a “permanent” green card that’s renewable every 10 years.
IMPORTANT: Entrepreneurs who obtained a conditional green card through investment would need to file a different form, called the I-829.
In this guide:
- What is Form I-751?
- Who needs to file Form I-751?
- When should you file Form I-751?
- How do you fill out Form I-751?
- What additional documentation is required?
- What are the fees for Form I-751?
- What happens after you file Form I-751?
- How to check the status of your I-751
For many green card holders, filing Form I-751 is an important step along the road to eventual U.S. citizenship. You can check your eligibility for U.S. citizenship through Boundless without providing any personal or financial information. When you’re ready to apply, Boundless can guide you through every step of the naturalization process, starting with your application all the way to the finish line. Learn more, or find out if you’re eligible today.
Form I-751 (officially called the “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”) is a form used to upgrade a 2-year conditional green card to a full 10-year green card. This process is called the “removal of conditions” on the marriage-based green card and is important because a conditional green card otherwise expires after 2 years.
Conditional (or “CR-1”) green cards are issued to people who have been married less than 2 years when they gain permanent residence through marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder.
The information provided on Form I-751 is used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine whether the applicant’s marriage is genuine and wasn’t entered into for the sole purpose of acquiring a green card.
If your marriage has since ended, you can still apply to remove the conditions on your green card, but you’ll need to explain and provide evidence to show that your marriage was genuine.
Everyone issued a conditional green card must file Form I-751 shortly before the 2-year anniversary of their green card’s approval. You likely have conditional resident status if at the time your green card was approved you were married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder less than 2 years.
TIP: You can check whether you have conditional residence by looking at the front of your green card. If your card has the letters “CR1” under the “Category” heading, then you have a conditional green card. You can also check the expiration date on your green card to see if you were issued a 2-year or 10-year green card.
Generally, the conditional-resident spouse and the spouse who originally sponsored their green card must file Form I-751 jointly. However, if that isn’t possible — in cases when the couple has divorced or the sponsoring spouse has died or become abusive — then Form I-751 can be filed individually or the joint-filing requirement can be waived.
It’s important to file Form I-751 in a timely manner to avoid complications, such as the immediate loss of permanent resident status. But the right time to file depends on whether you are filing jointly with your sponsoring spouse or filing individually:
If you are still married and filing jointly with your sponsoring spouse
You must file Form I-751 during the 90-day period before the expiration date of your conditional green card.
For instance, if your green card’s expiration date is April 1, 2021, then you can file Form I-751 no earlier than January 1, 2021, or 90 days. You must file no later than April 1, 2021, in order to maintain your green card status.
If you are filing your I-751 by yourself
You can file your I-751 at any time after you receive conditional residence. This could be the case if your marriage ended due to divorce, annulment, or your sponsoring spouse’s death or if you or your children were abused by your spouse.
If your conditional green card has already expired
In some situations, the U.S. government will make an exception and allow you to file the I-751 form even after your conditional green card has expired. You will need to write a letter outlining your reasons for not filing sooner. Generally, requests will only be approved in “extraordinary circumstances” beyond the applicant’s control, and in which the delay was “reasonable.”
There is no guarantee that an I-751 will be accepted if it is filed late, so it’s important to try to meet the deadline.
Form I-751 must be printed out. You can either type your answers and print out the completed form, or print out a blank form and complete it by hand using black ink.
Once the form is completed, you will need to send it to the U.S. government by mail. The address you’ll use depends on which U.S. state you’re in. You can check where to send your completed I-751 here.
The information required to complete Form I-751 is fairly straightforward. Let’s look at each part of the form individually.
PART 1: Information about you
This section asks for basic personal information, such as your name, marital status, and other personal information. Other questions that may not be as obvious:
Alien Registration Number (or “A-Number”): You can find this number on your green card, where it is labeled “USCIS#”. You can also find this number on your past correspondence with USCIS.
USCIS Online Account Number: This is different from your A-Number, but don’t worry about it if you don’t have one. If you have used USCIS online services in the past, you can log in to your account and find your account number on your profile page.
Mailing and physical addresses: You may live at a different address than where you receive mail. If someone other than you accepts mail on your behalf, include their name on line 15.a., where it reads: “In Care Of Name.”
PART 2: Biographic Information
Here you will be asked for details about you, including eye color, height, weight, and ethnicity.
PART 3: Basis for Petition
If you are filing jointly with your spouse or parent, check the appropriate box in “Joint filing”.
If your circumstances mean you cannot file jointly with your spouse, check the appropriate box to explain why your spouse will not file with you. This might include the death of your spouse, spousal abuse, or divorce.
PARTS 4 and 5: Information About Your Spouse and Children
In this section, you will provide basic information about the sponsoring spouse (or parent or guardian) through whom the applicant obtained their green card.
In Part 5 you will do the same for any children you may have. If you do not have children, go straight to Part 6.
PART 6: Accommodations for Individuals with Disabilities and Impairments
In this section, you can make USCIS aware of any disabilities or impairments you might have, and which would require accommodation by U.S. authorities.
PARTS 7 and 8: Applicant and Spouse Acknowledgements and Signatures
In this part, you and your spouse will be asked to verify that all the information contained in the application is correct.
The conditional green card holder is the “petitioner,” and should complete Part 7 and sign and date the form. Their sponsoring spouse, parent, or guardian (if applicable) should then complete and sign in Part 8.
PARTS 9 and 10: Interpreter and Preparer Information
If an interpreter, lawyer, or anyone else helped you to complete the form, they need to give their details in these sections.
When you mail your completed Form I-751, you will also need to include some supporting documentation. You should send:
- Copies of the front and back of your current green card, and of the front and back of the green cards of any children included on the I-751.
- Evidence that your marriage was entered into in good faith. This could include documents that show you continue to live together, such as mortgage or lease documents; evidence of shared assets, joint bank accounts, or joint tax filings; birth certificates of children born since your marriage; voided checks showing the same address; or even family photographs and sworn affidavits from friends. For further details, check out Boundless’ article on how to prove your marriage is real.
- Evidence to support your reasons for not filing jointly (if applicable). This could include your spouse’s death certificate; a finalized divorce decree; or official documentation showing that you or your children suffered domestic abuse.
- An explanation for the reason you are filing late (if applicable).
- Details of any criminal convictions or charges brought against you since you became a green card holder (if applicable).
- If filing while overseas due to military or government service, enclose 2 passport-style photographs, completed Form FD-258 fingerprint cards, and a copy of your current military or government orders. Additionally, write “ACTIVE MILITARY” or “GOVERNMENT ORDERS” on the top of your I-751.
Check the I-751 instructions for full details on the kinds of documentation required for your specific circumstances.
The filing fee for Form I-751 is $595. You will also have to pay an $85 biometric fee for yourself, and an additional $85 for each dependent included on your I-751. You can request a fee waiver based on your household income, receipt of means-tested benefits, or financial hardship.
You can pay the fee with a money order, personal check, or cashier’s check. When filing at a USCIS Lockbox facility, you can pay by credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.
After you file Form I-751, you will receive a notice in the mail confirming that your Form I-751 has been received. This receipt, also called a Form I-797, can be presented along with your existing green card to extend its validity for up to 18 months beyond the original expiration date. Whenever you need to prove your U.S. residence, you must show both your green card and the receipt.
The processing times for I-751 forms change on a regular basis, and depend on which USCIS office processes your application. Be sure to check the USCIS website for current wait times. Sometimes the wait can be more than 3 years. That means you might not get your full green card before the extended date listed on your I-797 receipt. Don’t worry! Your green card will automatically remain valid until your I-751 petition is decided. You can still live, work, and travel freely just as you did before filing your I-751. If you need proof of residence, you can contact USCIS and request an appointment to get an extension stamped in your passport.
USCIS will review your application and send a request for evidence if parts of your application are missing. That can further delay the process, so make sure your Form I-751 is complete and that you include all the required documentation.
You will then be sent details of your biometrics appointment, including date, time, and location. This is an important appointment, so make sure you don’t miss it.
Finally, you may be required to attend an interview with a USCIS official. This requirement used to be regularly waived if the applicant and their spouse submitted clear evidence of a genuine marriage along with their initial application, but under new guidelines implemented late in 2018, most conditional green card holders do now have to attend an in-person interview.
If USCIS approves your petition, you will receive a notice of approval, followed by a new 10-year green card in the mail. You will need to renew your new green card before it expires.
Conditional residence and U.S. citizenship
Your time as a conditional green card holder usually counts towards the time needed to qualify for U.S. citizenship, so in some cases you may become eligible for naturalization before you receive your updated green card. If that applies to you, you can file a copy of your I-797 receipt along with your N-400 naturalization application and request that USCIS process both applications simultaneously.
Not sure if you’re eligible for naturalization? You can check your eligibility through Boundless without providing any personal information. When you’re ready to apply, Boundless can guide you through every milestone of the naturalization process, starting with your N-400 application all the way to the finish line. Learn more, or check your eligibility now.
You can check the status of your Form I-751 at any time using this link. You will need to enter your application number, email address, and name. Once you’ve logged in, select “I-751 Remove Conditions” under “case type.”
If you are concerned that USCIS is taking too long to process your Form I-751, check the processing times for the field office where you filed. In the final column, you will see a date labeled “Receipt date for a case inquiry.” If you filed your application on or before this date, you can contact USCIS to request an update on the status of your case.