Green Card: What Is a Conditional Green Card?

A conditional green card is a temporary, 2-year green card issued to recently-married immigrants. If you got your green card through marriage and had only been married to your U.S. citizen spouse for two years or less, you will receive a conditional green card.

Most green cards are permanent and issued for 10 years. A conditional green card, however, is temporary and you must apply (using Form I-751) to remove the conditions on your permanent residence before it expires.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) wants to ensure that your marriage is legitimate, not just a scam to get a green card. The idea is that recent marriages are more likely to be illegitimate so these immigration applicants are the ones that receive the conditional green card.

A conditional permanent resident has basically the same rights as a regular permanent resident. You can work and you can travel in and out of the country. Your time as a conditional permanent resident can also be counted as time towards U.S. citizenship. To become a citizen, you must have been a permanent resident for 3-5 years.

Can you work on a conditional green card?

Yes. Conditional permanent residents can work and do not have to apply separately for a work permit.

Can you travel on a conditional green card?

Yes. Conditional green card holders can travel in and out of the U.S. without having to apply for a special visa.

When Do I Have to Apply for the I-751?

In order to apply for a “regular” green card, you will need to file the USCIS Form I-751. It’s very important to submit it on time. Apply for the I-751 within the 90-day period before your conditional residence expires. With the application, you will need to provide supporting documents that show your marriage is real. This could include a joint lease, bank accounts, memberships or even the birth certificate of a child born to both spouses. This is a joint application and will need to be filed and signed by both partners.

Can You Lose Your Green Card if You Get Divorced?

If you get divorced while you’re a conditional permanent resident, you won’t necessarily lose your green card. You can apply for a waiver of the joint petition (I-751) requirement. You should file the divorce waiver and will need to show the USCIS that you genuinely entered into the marriage (in “good faith”) and that you didn’t simply get married to get a green card. You’ll also need to explain why the marriage ended. It’s possible that this petition could be denied, especially if the USCIS finds you at fault for the marriage ending; for example, if you abandoned your spouse of cheated. If the waiver is denied, you will lose your permanent resident status and will need to leave the country.

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