Conditional Green Card: your complete guide

Gabriela Peratello
06.23.21
7 minute read

If you’ve entered the US with a Green Card issued on the basis of your marriage or local investments, you’ll need to know about the process for moving from a Conditional Green Card to full permanent residence. This guide has you covered.

We’ll also briefly introduce Wise as a smart way to manage your money when you’re new in the US, or needing to send, spend and receive international payments.

📑 Table of Contents

What is a conditional Green Card?

A conditional Green Card may be issued to people who apply for a Green Card due to their marriage to a US citizen or as an entrepreneur investing in the US.

The conditional Green Card will be issued for 2 years and can not be renewed. Instead, in order to convert the Conditional Green Card to full permanent resident rights, you’ll need to file a petition to remove the conditions, 90 days before the conditional card expires¹.

If your petition is filed on time, you’ll be given an extension to your conditional permanent resident status to allow for the petition to be processed. If you’re successful in your application, you’ll be granted a full Green Card after this period.

Learn more about different types of Green Cards — and the process to apply — in our comprehensive guide.

Who gets a conditional Green Card?

If you enter the US as the spouse of a US citizen, but your marriage is less than 2 years old, you’ll usually be granted a Conditional Green Card which will run for 2 years. This is issued either when you enter the US, or when you adjust your status to that of permanent resident after marriage. The conditions may be removed and the Green Card made permanent after 2 years, assuming you can prove that you entered into the marriage in good faith and not to circumvent the US immigration system².

You might also be granted a Conditional Green Card if you enter the US as an entrepreneur or investor. The conditions may then be removed after 2 years if you can show that you fulfilled the obligations which were set out at the time your card was issued — maintaining your investment in the US based company, and creating local jobs, for example³.

What can and can’t you do with a conditional Green Card?

Under the terms of your conditional Green Card you’ll have the right to live and work in the US.

You’ll also be able to leave and reenter the country for short trips as required, by presenting your original passport and Green Card to border officials. It’s worth noting though that longer trips away from the US may mean you’re considered to have abandoned your permanent resident status. If you’re leaving for more than a year you should apply for a reentry permit before you leave the US⁴.

Removing conditions on a Green Card

The steps for removing the conditions attached to your Green Card will depend on the category it was issued under.

If you have a conditional Green Card on the basis of your investments in the US, you’ll need to prove that you fulfilled all your obligations for the period of the Conditional residence permit. These may include:

  • Proof you have sustained the investment you made at the level agreed with you applied for entry to the US
  • Evidence you have created at least 10 local jobs

Entrepreneurs should complete Form I-829, and submit it 90 days before their Conditional Green Card expiry date⁵.

If you’ve been issued a Green Card on the basis of your marriage the form you need to complete is Form I-751⁶. This is usually filed jointly with your US spouse — although there are special conditions under which you can file this petition without the US partner. We’ll run through these a little later.

Along with a completed Form I-751 you’ll need to present evidence that your marriage is bona fide and was entered into in good faith.

Learn more about getting a marriage based Green Card

Conditional Green Card removal interview

If you’re applying to remove the conditions attached to your Green Card based on marriage, you may also need to attend an interview to demonstrate that your relationship is genuine. You’ll be notified in writing if this is the case.

What happens if you fail to remove the conditions on your conditional Green Card?

If your application to remove conditions from your Green Card is denied you’ll receive a letter explaining why. You may also be required to appear in front of an immigration judge for removal proceedings. At this meeting, the judge will assess the basis on which the decision was made to deny your petition. If they uphold the decision you’ll have 30 days to appeal, or will need to leave the US.

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Special scenarios

We mentioned above that there are some special situations which may apply if you’ve got a conditional Green Card based on marriage. Here are a few to consider — for the full information, processes and law, check out the USCIS website.

Can you lose your Green Card if you get divorced?

When assessing whether or not to remove the conditions from your conditional Green Card, USCIS will look to establish whether or not the marriage was entered into in good faith. This applies even if you have divorced or separated.

You can file your petition to remove conditions from your Green card alone, by asking for a waiver. If you’re divorced you’ll need to show that the marriage ended by divorce but was not entered into simply to circumvent the immigration processes.

What happens if your spouse dies?

If your spouse died after your marriage you’ll still be able to apply to remove the conditions on your permanent resident status. You’ll have to apply for a waiver to show why you’re not filing jointly with your partner, and demonstrate that you entered the marriage in good faith.

What happens to your conditional Green Card in case you were abused?

Conditional Green Card holders — including partners and children of US residents — can apply for the right to apply for the removal of conditions, if there has been abuse or battery in the relationship.

If you can demonstrate that you entered into the marriage in good faith, and you are not at fault for the failure to apply jointly for the removal of conditions to your Green Card, you may be given a waiver to apply alone for yourself and any dependent children. In this case you’ll again need to demonstrate that you entered into the marriage in good faith but then suffered cruelty, battery or abuse at the hands of the US citizen partner.

What happens if your marriage ends, however going back to your home country falls under the extreme hardship category?

Under US law you’ll be able to apply for removal of the conditions on your permanent resident status without your partner, if ending your status as a US resident would result in extreme hardship. You’ll need to submit evidence of why your return to your home country would result in extreme hardship when you file your Form I-751.

From conditional Green Card to permanent residency

If your application to remove conditions on your Green Card is successful you’ll be notified and will receive your unrestricted Green Card. Your Green Card confers the right to live and work indefinitely in the US as long as you comply with US law⁷.

However, holding a Green Card isn’t the same as being a US citizen. You’ll still need to maintain the passport from your home country, for example, and won’t have the right to vote in US elections. To access the full rights of a US citizen you’d need to apply to naturalize — a route which may be open to you as a Green Card holder within as little as 3 years.

There are a few different options when it comes to stepping up to a full US citizen status.

Get our full guide to naturalizing as a US citizen, here, and see if you’re able to convert your status from Green Card holder to US citizen

Meet Wise: a smart way to get your money wherever you are

As a new arrival in the US, you’ll likely need to to manage your money across currencies — which can prove costly with traditional banks.

Instead, look at the low cost international transfers available from Wise. You’ll get the real mid-market exchange rate every time, with only a small, transparent fee. All payments are arranged online for ease and convenience — and can be up to 6x cheaper than using your regular bank or a competitor like PayPal.

You may be able to benefit even more with a Wise Multi-currency Account and card. Hold, send and spend in a broad range of global currencies, and get a linked debit card to make easy ATM withdrawals no matter where you are.

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While immigration procedures can feel a little overwhelming, there is actually plenty of help and information out there if it’s time to apply to remove the conditions on your Green Card. Use this as a starting point to understand the process, gather the paperwork you need and make your application. Good luck!


Sources:

  1. USCIS - Conditional permanent residence
  2. USCIS - Removing conditions on permanent residence based on marriage
  3. USCIS - Employment based immigration
  4. USCIS - International travel as a permanent resident
  5. USCIS - I-829
  6. USCIS - I-751
  7. USCIS - Rights and responsibilities of a Green Card holder

Sources checked on 06.23.2021


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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