You received a 2-year conditional green card, but then you let the deadline to file your I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on your green card. Maybe you just didn’t realize it was that important, or maybe you forgot when it was expiring. Or maybe you thought you’d have to get your spouse to sign the paperwork, and you’re having marital problems and aren’t sure if that will happen. If you're searching for answers and saying to yourself, I never filed to remove conditions on my green card, this article is for you.
I Never Filed to Remove Conditions on My Green Card
Whatever the reason, it’s important to take the situation seriously. You are likely to be placed in removal proceedings (immigration court) if you do not file an I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence in the 90 days of the expiration of your card. If your card already expired, you need to take action NOW. You may have been placed in proceedings without your receiving proper notification, which can lead to you being ordered deported for failing to appear at a hearing (even if you didn’t know the hearing was taking place). Whether you are placed in removal proceedings or not, you can still file your I-751 Petition and you will need to submit the best possible evidence you have. As with everything in the U.S. immigration system, it’s so much easier to file a good petition and get an approval of it than to file a quick, poorly-prepared application and face the consequences.
When Can My Spouse and I File Our Joint I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on My Green Card?
Generally, a couple must file a Joint I-751 Petition within the 90 days before the conditional green card expires. So look at the date on your card, and count back 90 days. That’s the earliest date you can file a joint I-751 petition to remove conditions.
Can We File a Joint I-751 Petition If We’re Still Together but We Didn’t File Before My Card Expired?
There’s some good news – you can file your I-751 late. However, you must include an explanation of why you didn’t file on time and if you have any evidence supporting your explanation, you should include it. It’s up to USCIS to accept your explanation or not, so it’s important to make sure you address the late filing. An experienced attorney can help with this.
Should I File with My Spouse or Get a Divorce and File on My Own?
This sounds like a weird question, but we actually hear this every so often. Some couples start having issues in their marriage and are separated during the 90-day window to file to remove conditions. At this point, they’re wondering if they should try to stay married and file jointly. There’s no one answer – it partly depends on what you think you might do in the future. If you may reconcile, you can file jointly and evidence the relationship. If your marriage is ending, moving back in together and/or filing jointly isn’t “better” than divorcing and proceeding with your own I-751 filing (which we call an “I-751 Waiver”).
How Can I File an I-751 Petition Without My Spouse?
If you and your spouse are going to divorce, know that you may file an I-751 Waiver of the Joint Filing Requirement for a Petition to Remove Conditions (“I-751 Waiver”) without your spouse signing anything or being involved. You can file an I-751 waiver at any time, so even if your conditional green card is already expired, or you have not yet reached the 90-day window for couples to file their Joint I-751 Petition, you may still file.
If your divorce is not filed or is pending but not yet final, you can file an I-751 Waiver. However, keep in mind that USCIS will eventually request proof of the finalization of the divorce, so you’ll need to move forward with that process.
An I-751 Waiver Can Be Based on Any or All of Three Eligibility Criteria:
- You and your spouse married in good faith, but the marriage has ended (called the “good-faith” exception)
- You and your spouse married in good faith, but you have experienced battery or extreme cruelty in your marriage (this is an exception to the joint filing requirement for spouses who have experienced physical, mental, emotional, or financial abuse)
- You will experience extreme hardship if you cannot remain in the U.S.
You should file your I-751 Waiver indicating any or all of the above criteria that apply to you. You’ll need to provide any evidence of these bases. If your spouse controlled your documents, money, or otherwise withheld information from you, it can be difficult to get evidence of your eligibility. An attorney can help with evidencing your I-751 Waiver. We also strongly recommend you seek attorney representation for your divorce. See our blog on Conditional Green Card and Divorce for more information.
Am I Illegal in the Country If My Conditional Green Card Has Expired and I Haven’t Filed My I-751 Petition or Waiver?
You remain a resident unless and until one of the following happens:
- An immigration judge holds that you are no longer a resident; or
- You formally abandon your residence by signing paperwork to indicate you no longer wish to be a resident
If your conditional green card has expired, it’s important to be sure a case did not commence in immigration court without your knowledge, which sometimes happens if notice of a court date was sent to an address at which you no longer reside. Even if a case has started, or a deportation order was entered, talk to an experienced immigration lawyer so you can determine what to do – you may need to seek reopening of your case or file other documentation.
Immigration Lawyer in Houston Green Card
If an immigration court case has not been lodged against you, don’t wait to address your situation – talk to an experienced immigration lawyer about what you can do. It’s much easier and less stressful to file a good I-751 Petition or Waiver before you’re in immigration court.
Whether you know what’s going on, and whatever your situation, take action to protect your green card.
Contact our office to set up a consultation by click this orange button: