Friday, February 7, 2014

Removing Conditions on Green Card

The first green card that I received after successfully going through the fiancé visa process and applying for permanent residency had conditions attached to it.  Essentially, that just meant that it was valid for only two years rather than ten years (which is the norm for green cards).  That meant that I had to apply for a new green card before the two years had elapsed.

Up until now, everything that I had applied for with regard to the visa and residence had been achieved at first attempt without any additional difficulties or problems, but this time I faced some extra hurdles, which caused me stress, as you will read below.

Sunset over the Atlantic - I would end up flying to the UK knowing that I'd have to re-enter the US with an expired green card!

The Application Process – Form, Evidence, and Fee

Given how long it can take the USCIS to process applications, it would be nice if you could apply for the removal of conditions well in advance, but the rules stipulated that I had to do it no more than 90 days before the conditional green card was due to expire.  It took me nearly a month to gather together all the evidence, however (and I still didn’t send enough the first time – see below).  Plus the fee was substantial: $ 505 and in addition there was another $85 for the biometrics, which made a total of $590.

The document that I needed to fill out at this stage was Form I-751.  The form was fairly succinct and straightforward to fill out, but along with the application, supporting evidence that the marriage is genuine has to be supplied.  

If you’ve been through the fiancé visa process already, then you’ve already done something similar before, but it’s important to note that this time they are specifically looking for evidence covering the relationship for time period since you got married.  (If your marriage is no longer intact, you can still apply in many cases, but obviously the evidence you supply will be different).

Some examples of evidence  that you can give to show genuine marriage is listed below.

Examples of Evidence Required for the Removal of Green Card Conditions

  1. Birth certificates of children born to you and your spouse.
  2. Mortgage contracts or leases showing joint ownership or residency of a property.
  3. Financial records of joint bank accounts, loans etc.
  4. Copies of jointly submitted tax accounts.
  5. Documents that show your spouse as a beneficiary of pensions, insurance policies etc.
  6. Joint utility bills.
  7. Affidavits signed by American people who know you, testifying that you are a genuine romantic couple.
Gathering evidence wasn’t straightforward for my wife and I.  We haven’t had any children together and we don’t have much by the way of joint ownership, partly because we were both in middle age when we married.  My wife already owns the property where we live and there didn’t seem much point adding me (although if and when we moved, we’d probably put both our names on the document).  My wife wants to pass on her life insurance to her daughter, which is perfectly understandable. 

We therefore relied to a greater extent on things like affidavits, joint tax return, utility bills, etc.   

I sent off the application in June, two months before my green card was due to expire.  I had a plane booked to take me to England in late November, so that I could visit friends and family, which I figured should be enough time to get the new green card.

Not long after I sent in my application, I received a letter saying that my green card had been extended for a year, whilst my application for the removal of conditions was processed.  This letter is important, and you need to hold onto it in my experience – scan it and copy it!

Green Card Problems

My conditional green card expired at the end of August.  I didn’t worry about it too much as I had the letter (secured safely at home) saying that my status had been extended for a year.  That said, I knew that legally, you are supposed to carry a valid green card on you at all times, if you are a permanent resident.

In September, I went on a long road journey to participate in a tennis tournament.  It involved traveling from Florida to Tucson, Arizona, passing through the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico en route.  I wasn’t concerned about the green card situation as I was traveling within the US and not leaving the country.

What I didn’t know, however, was that there are internal “customs posts” in New Mexico and Louisiana.  These are there mainly to try and catch illegal Mexican immigrants coming into the US via Texas, I believe.  Anyway, I had to pass through them, knowing that I had an out of date green card in my pocket.  Luckily, they waved us through both times without questioning me or checking my documentation.  (If you’re picked up without a green card, you risk long delays and a fine).

Me out in Arizona

After that, I made sure I kept a copy of the letter from the USCIS saying that my residence had been extended for a year in my wallet at all times, as well as my old (expired) green card!

Just over a week before I was about to leave for the UK, I got a letter from the USCIS.  I assumed that it was my replacement green card and felt a huge sense of relief.  But when I opened the envelope, it wasn’t a new card, it was a letter telling me that I’d not sent enough evidence and they needed more.

That effectively meant that I had to travel to the UK with my old expired green card and the USCIS extension letter, and hope that I wouldn’t have any problems getting back into the USA! 

More Evidence

My wife sent off the additional bundle of evidence in early December, whilst I was still in the UK.  This time, we included copies of documents that showed my wife had changed her name after marriage: her social security and driving license; we also gave copies of health insurance showing that we were both included, plus more documents to show that we both lived at the same address.  

The first time round, we have covered just part of the period since we got hitched, but this time we made sure that we covered the entire period, for instance, including joint tax returns for the two years, rather than just the one.  We also included some personal material, such as photos of our marriage, and photos of us holidaying, spending time with friends and family etc. from the period since we got married.

A Family Photo

New Green Card at Last!

I arrived back in the US in late December.  The customs officer did question me pretty thoroughly and keep me waiting a little, but he did let me through after I explained in detail why I had an out-of-date green card and showed him the USCIS letter.  

I got back to my Florida home.  Then it was just a case of waiting for my new green card to arrive in the post.  I must admit that I was more than a little nervous – had I given them enough evidence this time?  A rejection might mean having to make an appeal and there was no way that my wife and I could afford expensive legal representation.  We had given the USCIS all the evidence that we could think of (with the exception of maybe sending some more affidavits from friends saying we were a genuine couple - we sent two, but you can send up to twelve, according to what I read later).  

However, to my relief, I did finally receive an acceptance letter and my new green card in late January.  This card entitles me to 10 years of legal residence and working.  In August, I have the option of applying for US citizenship, should I choose to.  

I am just happy to have a break from all the application stress and expense for the moment, however, as I’m sure most of you will probably understand!


  1. Hello Paul,

    How do I know when I should sent off my removing conditions application? Is it the 90 days before expiration of Green Card (as it appears on the card)?

  2. Hi Paul, great post about the ROC process. We definitely sent in a ton of evidence and luckily didn't need an interview. I think that taking a break from USCIS is a good idea but you may want apply for citizenship to be free at last from USCIS. :)

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