After applying for a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR), you will be given a “conditional residence” status if your marriage is less than two years old on the day that you are lawfully admitted to the United States.
In most ways, if you are a conditional resident, you have the same rights as a permanent resident. You can get a job, travel outside of the U.S., and start working toward U.S. citizenship.
However, in order to stay in the United States indefinitely, you must apply to have the conditions on your green card removed before it expires. This is done by submitting the Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
Form I-751 Overview
Here are the key points to remember about removing conditions:
- You must pass a period of conditional residence if your status is based on a marriage that is less than 2 years old.
- The period of conditional residence is 2 years.
- You must file the I-751 within 90 days of the end of your 2 year period.
- The form must be filed jointly by the two spouses in most situations.
- The filing fee for an I-751 is $595 plus $85 for a required biometric service fee.
If you’re looking for a complete guide on how to complete and submit the Form I-751, click here.
Showing Evidence & Proving your Legitimate Marriage
Since the “burden of proof” is on you, it’s essential to provide enough evidence that the marriage is in good faith.
USCIS adjudicators can assign a fraud level: either A, B, or C. If one of the above criteria applies to you, USCIS may bump your case up a fraud level.
If USCIS sees any of these signs, they may flag your marriage:
- Large disparity of age.
- Inability of petitioner and beneficiary to speak each other’s language.
- Vast difference in cultural and ethnic background.
- Family or friends unaware of the marriage.
- Marriage arranged by a third party.
- Marriage contracted immediately following the beneficiary’s apprehension or receipt of notification to depart the United States.
- Discrepancies in statements on questions for which a husband and wife should have common knowledge.
- No cohabitation since marriage, even if there are valid reasons.
- Beneficiary is a friend of the family.
- Petitioner filed previous petitions in behalf of aliens, especially alien spouses.
Every time your fraud level increases, the likelihood of an interview becomes more likely.
Proving Your Legitimate Marriage
Marriage certificates aren’t enough.
Although a marriage certificate is required and proves a marriage is legally established, it does not prove the marriage was in good faith. To prove the marriage is in good faith, provide as many documents as possible to show the quality of the marriage from the beginning to the present. You can provide documents in four main ways:
- Evidence of spending time together.
- Evidence of sharing finances.
- Evidence of living together.
- Evidence of raising children together.
1. Evidence of spending time together.
Most married couples do things together. Showing evidence of intimacy, or doing things together is a key way of showing a good faith marriage. “Intimacy” doesn’t only refer to sexual intimacy, but rather the idea of spending time together and communicating.
Here are some examples of documents that can help prove intimacy:
- Travel itineraries and lodging bookings from joint vacations or get-aways.
- Photos from joint vacations or trips, especially trips abroad to visit relatives.
- Cards from loved ones complimenting you on your wedding, anniversary, or other joint life events.
- Evidence that the spouses have met or communicated with each others parents and relatives, including, photographs, letters, cards, emails, messages, etc.
- Telephone and instant message records demonstrating that the spouses communicate regularly.
- Photographs from the couple’s wedding, honeymoon, get-aways, family meals, holidays, etc. List the the date and names of the people in the photographs.
- Tickets to events both spouses attended or plan to attend.
- Receipts for gifts spouses bought for each other.
- Records of social media posts and interactions, including screenshots of Facebook pages, Twitter posts, Instagram posts, etc.
- Documents showing membership in the same clubs, churches, teams, etc.
- Documents showing that one spouse took the other’s last name.
2. Evidence of sharing finances.
Many married couples combine finances in a shared effort. Even if you would otherwise prefer to keep finances separate, it might not be a bad idea to commingle finances to help show evidence of a good faith marriage. Use these documents to show evidence of raising children together:
- Bank statements for joint accounts with both names.
- Statements for loans where one spouse is a co-signor for the other spouse.
- Voided and cancelled checks for joint accounts.
- Joint insurance agreements, statements, and cards, including health, life, property, and auto insurance, etc.
- Utility bills showing both names, including, cell phone, trash, cable, internet, electricity, water, gas bills, etc.
- Life insurance policies, wills, and trusts, showing a spouse as a beneficiary.
- Documents showing joint ownership of cars, real property, or investments.
- Tax returns filed jointly as a married couple showing both names.
- Funeral plans or intended burial locations that involve or are close to a spouse.
- Copies of bank statements from separate accounts and payment receipts showing that the spouses both contribute to financial responsibilities and payments. For example, bank statements from separate accounts could show that each spouse pays half of rent each month.
- Copies of driver’s licenses showing the same address for each spouse;
- Copies of vehicle titles showing joint ownership.
Commingling finances isn’t necessary. But it provides good evidence of a good faith marriage.
3. Evidence of living together.
Most married couples live together. Showing evidence of cohabitation, or living together is a good place to start. Use these documents to show evidence of cohabitation:
- Mortgage or loan papers with both names.
- Bank statements giving the same address for both spouses.
- Driver’s licenses or identification documents showing the same address.
- Voided or cancelled checks showing the same address.
- Deed to property indicating both names.
- Property insurance agreements, statements, or cards showing the same address.
- Health and life insurance statements showing the same address.
- Correspondence from friends, family, or businesses showing the same address.
- Lease agreement showing both names.
- Utility bills showing the same address, including, cell phone, trash, cable, internet, electricity, water, gas bills, etc.
- Affidavits from family, friends, neighbors, and landlords testifying of cohabitation (more on this later).
Cohabitation isn’t necessary for a marriage to be legitimate, but it is a good sign. Some circumstances require spouses to live separately, such as jobs in different locations and military service.
4. Evidence of raising children together.
Showing proof of raising children together will provide evidence of a legitimate marriage. Use these documents to show evidence of raising children together:
- Adoption certificates showing the two spouses as the parents.
- Birth certificates showing both spouses as parents.
- Documents that show a relationship with children or step-children, including, vacation itineraries, photos, school records, affidavits from friends, family, and teachers.
- Documents showing the step-parent as the emergency contact for a step-child, including, doctor’s records, school records, etc.
- Medical records showing an ongoing pregnancy.
Again, it isn’t necessary to have or raise children together. It is just helpful evidence to show a good faith marriage. Raising step or adopted children together can also be compelling.
Affidavits were listed above as documents that could provide evidence of intimacy, cohabitation, and raising children together. “Affidavit” is just a fancy word for a written statement for legal use that is confirmed by oath. Affidavits can be very convincing. Spouses should get their family, friends, neighbors, and employers to write down their personal observations witnessing the legitimacy of the marriage.
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