How to file a “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”
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:
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.
Boundless + RapidVisa can help you complete Form I-751 and answer any removal of conditions questions you may have. Learn more about what we do to help.
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.
Not sure if you need to file Form I-751? Start by checking your eligibility with Boundless + RapidVisa.
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.
Boundless + RapidVisa can track your filing window and help you apply on time to avoid any roadblocks. Check your eligibility to get started.
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.
If this all seems confusing, not to worry! Boundless + RapidVisa are here to guide you through each step. Get started now.
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.
If you choose to work with Boundless + RapidVisa, our team will provide you with a personalized checklist so you know exactly what is required. Check your eligibility to get started.
The filing fee for Form I-751 is $595. You will also have to pay an $885 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.
Why is it taking so long to process Form I-751?
Form I-751 processing delays are nothing new. In 2013, a Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman report found that a severe lack of training, inconsistent adjudications, and unwarranted removal proceedings were gumming up the works. And according to the CIS Ombudsman 2021 annual report, the inefficiencies and delays have only gotten worse. This is in large part due to the evolving (or devolving) state of interview waiver guidelines.
In 2005, an interoffice memorandum prioritized Requests for Evidence (RFEs), over interviews, to clear up any inconsistencies in I-751 petitions. If, despite new evidence, confusion still prevailed — or if the application seemed fraudulent in any way — the officers were instructed by the memo to schedule an in-person interview.
In 2018, USCIS issued another guidance, to fulfill the mission of Executive Order 13780 — entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” That guidance shared much of the same language as the 2005 memo, except for one important addition: all conditional permanent residents (CPRs) who received their approval abroad, and who filed on or after December 10th, 2018, would, by default, have to attend an interview. In effect, interview waivers became the exception rather than the norm.
The new criterion — dubbed the “categorical interview requirement” — caused the number of interviews to skyrocket. Petitions meeting this requirement were effectively funneled to field offices for interviews. According to the 2021 Ombudsman report, “As of December 31, 2020, 58,371 Form I-751 petitions were pending with USCIS that met the categorical interview requirement.”
Perhaps more striking is the fact that, in 2019, 187,000 CPRs received their green card through consular processing. Under the 2018 guidance, all those applicants must attend an interview. In practice, this means severe delays. While USCIS is required by law to issue a decision within 90 days of the interview, they only reach this standard 49% of the time.
What was the reasoning behind the 2018 guidance? The administration intended to weed out the perceived threat of fraudulent applications. But, as it turns out, this threat was more fiction than fact. In 2020, only 1 percent of denials were due to fraud. For more on the 2018 guidance and its effects, read our article on the topic.
In response to the increased delays, USCIS has updated its policies to provide some cushion for applicants in bureaucratic limbo. Petitioners are now permitted to use their receipt notice (Form I-797), with their green card, as proof of residence for up to 24 months after the expiration of their permanent resident card. That’s 6 months more than the original 18-month grace period. Eligible applicants who filed prior to September 4th will receive a new receipt notice with the updated timeline.
You can check the current processing time estimates on the USCIS website. If you’ve been waiting longer than the estimated processing time, you can submit an e-form to inquire about the status of your petition.
What if my I-751 application is denied?
There are 3 ways in which your application can be denied:
- It has been discovered, within the 2-year conditional period, that the marriage was fraudulent, or “judicially annulled”, or that the applicant has paid a fee for filing another application for immigrant status.
- The applicant did not attend their interview or file a joint petition within the appropriate time frame.
- The application itself contains false information.
If your application has been denied for one of these reasons, USCIS will send you a Notice to Appear (NTA), and you will be expected to attend removal proceedings at an immigration court. If you would like to argue your case, you will have to submit another I-751 on different grounds. Once you file the new petition, you can submit a motion to continue your removal proceedings while USCIS considers your new application. If the new I-751 is approved, you can file another motion to end the removal proceedings.
If the second Form I-751 is denied, it will be up to the judge to determine whether the decision was sound. Your conditional residence will remain valid until the end of the proceedings.
Should I include a cover letter when filing Form I-751? If so, who should write it?
While it is not required that you submit a cover letter with your application, it can be very useful if you think your case might appear odd to a USCIS officer. You can use the letter to quell any potential concerns the case officer might have when reviewing your submission. This will, in turn, reduce the possibility of further evidence requests. For instance, if you and your spouse live separately, you can write a letter explaining why this is the case.
You can also use the letter to summarize your application, providing a list of contents and a brief explanation of each item on the list. It’s good to keep the letter brief and to the point, and you should be sure to include your name and alien registration number.
There’s no rule governing who should write the letter. You and your partner can decide together who might be best suited to the task. If either of you have experience drafting official letters, then the task should probably fall to that person. No matter who writes the letter, it’s a good idea for both of you (and a third party) to review the draft several times before submitting. This will help reduce the possibility of errors sneaking their way into your petition.
Why was my I-751 transferred to the National Benefits Center (NBC)?
As mentioned above, Form I-751 has been clogging the proverbial pipeline for sometime now. Ever since the publication of the 2018 memorandum, the number of required interviews has gone through the roof. As a result, the caseload has been distributed across several USCIS offices. According to the 2021 Ombudsman report, all applications meeting the “categorical interview requirement” have been forwarded “directly to the National Benefits Center (NBC) for intake processing and interview scheduling.” And since most CPR applicants are required to attend an interview, a large number of petitions have been sent to NBC.
What happens if I divorce my partner while my I-751 is pending?
First of all, it’s important to know that this is not grounds for immediate dismissal of your case. That being said, you should notify USCIS of the divorce as soon as it is final. They might send you an RFE requesting documentary proof that your marriage has ended, in which case you should promptly reply with the requested information. You might want to send the divorce decree with an attached cover letter explaining the situation and requesting that your initial application be changed to a divorce-based waiver petition. Whichever path you take, you should, where possible, include concrete evidence of your attempts to save the marriage — if, for instance, you went to couple’s therapy. You will want to show the case officer that your relationship and the ensuing divorce were authentic. But, in the end, this is not a reason to panic.
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