Termination of Conditional Resident Status (Green Card) and What It Means
Obtaining a U.S. green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen results in a 2 year conditional resident status. Why? Because USCIS wants to make sure that you’re genuinely eligible for the green card. Think of it as a testing period similar to how your employer requires a 90 day probationary period before you are hired. You may be reading this post because you received the dreaded “Termination of Conditional Resident Status” letter from USCIS. Don’t worry, I’ll explain why you got this letter and what to do about it.
Conditional green cards are issued in two types of immigration cases:
- Marriage to a U.S. citizen (CR1 visa if married abroad or Adjustment of Status within the U.S.)
- Investment in U.S. residence (EB-5 or entrepreneur visa/green card)
This post will only focus on marriage based conditional green cards and how someone could lose it. It’s important to note that this conditional status also affects children that obtained their green cards through adjustment of status of the parent.
During the 2 year conditional status, you should be on your best behavior. That means no drinking and driving, domestic abuse, dodging the IRS or robbing a bank. Just be a good person. Plain and simple.
Unfortunately, for those of you reading this post after some bad decisions, you may want to talk to an immigration attorney for guidance. They can help you get out of sticky situations such as being convicted of drug possession and DUI when it relates to your immigration status.
You Were Found To Have Committed Immigration Fraud
As many of you are aware, USCIS is very suspicious of any foreigner who marries a U.S. citizen. It’s as if you are guilty of committing immigration fraud until you can prove you’re innocence. That’s where all the evidence of “bona fide” marriages comes in.
Marriage was entered into for a green card.
During the immigration interview, the consular officer (or immigration officer) will ask you questions to learn whether your marriage is genuine or fake. The questions asked can be very personal but you should still answer them truthfully. If the answers that you give are inconsistent or don’t match up with what you previous said, they may doubt your relationship is real.
In some cases, the person interviewing you may separate you and your spouse in what is called a “stokes interview“. The stokes interview is a more in-depth interrogation style interview where you and your spouse are asked the same questions in different rooms. If too many of your answers don’t match up, they may deny or revoke your green card.
Kelly married Osmon in 2014 in Egypt and successfully applied for the CR1 visa. He entered the U.S. on the spouse visa and immediately became a conditional green card holder. Their marriage was difficult and they separated for 1 year after only living with each other for 6 months. When it came time to remove the conditions on his green card, Kelly agreed to help him remove the 2 year conditions on his green card by signed the documents and attending the interview.
During the interview, the immigration officer (IO) was suspicious of their relationship because they didn’t provide enough joint documents such as rental agreement, bank statements or utility bills. The IO decides to separate them to determine whether there was evidence of marriage fraud. Since Kelly and Osmon didn’t live with each other for most of their marriage, they couldn’t answer questions such as “which side of the bed do you sleep in” and “what color are the curtains in the living room”.
Osmon’s removal of conditions was denied and his conditional green card revoked/terminated.
Marriage to U.S. citizen was annulled or terminated
With the divorce rate in the United States hovering around 50%, it’s no surprise that an international marriage isn’t immune to it. Some say that marrying a foreign national and then going through the immigration process makes the couple stronger. This is definitely true in my own marriage but for others it may prove to be too stressful on the marriage.
What happens when the marriage ends before the conditions on the green card are removed? It could go two ways:
- You’ll be able to remove conditions on your green card
- As long as you can prove you entered the marriage in good faith and it’s bona fide, you can file I-751 with a divorce waiver
- If the marriage was annulled, it will be far more difficult to remove conditions because an annulment is as if it never took place. To file I-751, you need a qualifying marriage to a U.S. citizen and if the marriage is annulled, you loose the qualifying marriage.
- Note that if the U.S. citizen spouse dies, you can still remove the conditions if you can prove your marriage was real. You must file I-751 within 2 years of their death.
- Your conditional resident status will be terminated.
- If you can’t prove your have a bona marriage and entered it in good faith, the conditional green card will be revoked.
- This is when you will then be put in removal proceedings and should consult an immigration attorney.
John and Anastasia have been married for 2.5 years and she initially entered the U.S. on a fiancee visa (K1). Their relationship has been rocky ever since they had their first child Nicholas. After months of marriage counseling, they decided to go their separate ways and file for divorce. Anastasia knew she needed to remove the conditions on her green card so she filed for I-751 with a divorce waiver.
She entered the marriage in good faith and had plenty of evidence such as rental agreement, tax returns, bank statements, insurance documents, joint loans etc. She provided all of this with the removal of conditions applications. USCIS required her to attend an interview alone where she answered many questions about why her marriage ended. She was honest and thorough with her answers.
The immigration officer believed their marriage was real but just didn’t work out. She was approved for a 10 year permanent green card.
You May Become a Public Charge (Inadmissible)
If your case is simple, you may never have to deal with any grounds of inadmissibility. However, if your case involves job loss, criminal records, domestic abuse or anything along those lines; get ready for headaches. One way that your conditional resident status can be terminated is if you may become a public charge in the eyes of USCIS.
I’ve seen this happen in cases where the U.S. petitioner revokes the I-864 before a conditional green card is issued:
(1) In an immigrant visa case, once the sponsor, substitute sponsor, joint sponsor, household member, or intending immigrant has presented a signed Form I-864 or Form I-864A to a Department of State officer… may disavow his or her agreement to act as sponsor…if he or she does so in writing and submits the document to the Department of State officer before the actual issuance of an immigrant visa to the intending immigrant.
Once the intending immigrant has obtained an immigrant visa, a sponsor… cannot disavow his or her agreement to act as a sponsor, … unless the person who filed the visa petition withdraws the visa petition in writing and also notifies the Department of State officer who issued the visa of the withdrawal of the petition.
Nathan and Victoria filed for a K1 visa after their engagement in France. They were approved and Victoria entered the US on the fiancee visa to marry Nathan in Florida. After their marriage, they filed to adjust her status with form I-485. Sadly, their relationship became toxic and they were constantly fighting about her in-laws. Nathan had enough of her bad mouthing his parents. Fueled by anger he sent a letter to USCIS to withdraw the affidavit of support that he signed without telling Victoria.
Within 6 weeks, they receive a letter from USCIS stating the Victoria’s adjustment of status was denied due to the public charge grounds of inadmissibility. The couple has since resolved their issues but they will now need to file for the I-485 all over again.
You Violated The Terms Of Your Conditional Resident Status
Violating the terms of your conditional resident status is a big no-no! As a conditional resident, you are allowed to live in the United States on a temporary basis and should be familiar with the things you can and can’t do.
- Filing your federal, state, and local taxes.
- All conditional residents must file their U.S. taxes. Even if you are living abroad temporarily, you must still file your taxes and let the IRS know of the income you made overseas. If you don’t file, you will be deemed to have abandoned your green card.
- Failing to file taxes while living in the U.S. will not be deemed as green card abandonment but you’ll have a tough time removing conditions in the future.
- Register for selective service.
- If you are a male between the ages of 18 -26 years you are required to register for selective service. This lets the U.S. government know that you are available to service the military during a draft.
- Let Department of State (DOS) know when you move.
- If you move, you must let the DOS know of your address change within 30 days of the move date by filing form AR-11 (this can be done online).
- Not leave the U.S. with intention to live elsewhere.
- To keep your conditional residence status, you should make the U.S. your permanent home. If you live abroad and have no intention to return to the US you have effectively abandoned your green card. More than 12 months outside the U.S. will require you to apply for a reentry permit (before you depart).
Failed To Removed The Conditions Of Your Green Card
The conditional green card requires that you remove the conditions 90 days before the card expires if you’re still married. If you are divorced or widowed, you can remove the conditions at any time before the card expires.
Failure to file form I-751 can result in losing your conditional green card and being placed in removal proceedings (deportation). Of course, if you forget to file and are still married you can certainly file late but you run the risk of your green card application being denied if you don’t have a good explanation.
You must still submit evidence with form I-751
Even if you file to remove the conditions on your green card on time, you still need to convince USCIS that you deserve a permanent 10 year green card. You can do this by providing evidence showing you entered the marriage in good faith and share a life together.
Don’t send the exact same documents you sent when you adjusted your status. They want to see documents from the time you received your conditional green card up to the date you are filing to remove the conditions.
Final Thoughts on Termination Of Conditional Green Card
Although I haven’t heard of too many cases where someone lost their conditional green card, it does happen. You should know what your responsibilities are as a conditional resident of the United States.
Personally, I didn’t feel very secure about living in the United States until I received my permanent 10 year green card. This wasn’t because of issues in my marriage but due to the fact that USCIS could revoke it for something as minor as changing my address. Luckily we haven’t moved too often but if we did, I know I would have forgotten to notify DOS about it.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being in removal proceedings (deportation) after your conditional green card is revoked, call an immigration attorney. Even if you can’t afford to hire one, you should have a consultation to see what your options are based on the specifics of your case.
One thing that helped me to remember to remove the conditions on my green card was to set a reminder in my cell phone calendar. Yup, that simple. USCIS does send out a letter to notify you when it’s time to remove the conditions but we all know the post office isn’t very reliable.
What are your thoughts about losing conditional resident status? Share your thoughts in the comments below.