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Thread: Guide to the I-751 Process - Removal of Conditions

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    Guide to the I-751 Process - Removal of Conditions

    I-751 – Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence

    Disclaimer: This is one person’s "layman's" understanding of the I-751 process. Under no circumstances should any of this be considered “legal advice” as I am not an attorney. If you have further questions or want to clarify/confirm anything written here, please consult with a qualified immigration attorney.

    Other I2US.net'ers should please feel free add to what I've written here, amend as needed, or correct any errors you see. (Please PM Ange with corrections/amendments)



    WHAT IS IT - - & WHO NEEDS TO FILE THIS FORM?

    This form must be filled out by green card (“I-551”) holders whose green card is “conditional”, in order to remove those “conditions”. A “conditional” green card is issued when an alien’s spouse petitioned for him/her to immigrate on a spouse visa when they had been married for less than 2 years at the time.
    [NOTE: The visa granted for entry into the U.S. in this case should have been a “CR1” which stands for “Conditional Residency type 1” (versus an “IR1” which stands for “Immediate Relative type 1” and results in a 10-year card). CR1 is what should have been written in the passport of the conditional resident alien.] Any conditional resident dependants (children) must be included on the I-751 form, too.


    WHEN DOES IT HAVE TO BE FILED?

    If filing jointly:
    According to USCIS, if filing with your spouse, “you must file it during the 90 days immediately before the second anniversary of the date you were accorded conditional resident status. This is the date your conditional residence expires.” This means you should look on your green card to see what the expiration date is (it will be exactly 2 years from the time the green card was issued, which is also the date the alien entered the country if they petitioned from outside the U.S.). You must file by that date, and can send the petition in up to 90 days before the expiration date. However, petitions sent in before the 90 days will not be accepted. (NOTE: Filing dates have nothing to do with the date you were married or that your visa was issued.)

    NOTE: This is one area where this process is slightly confusing. USCIS says, “Any application that is not signed or accompanied by the correct fee will be rejected with a notice that the application is deficient. You may correct the deficiency and resubmit the application. However, an application is not considered properly filed until accepted by USCIS.” So, the date your package is delivered to the Service Center (VT or CA) by the post office, FedEx, or whatever mailing service you used is NOT the official “Receipt” date for the USCIS. The official “Receipt” date – which is the date I believe USCIS considers your petition to be “properly filed” is the day they have reviewed your packet and determined that it is complete… that the proper version of the form was used, that the right amount of money is enclosed for the fee, and that the form has been signed, etc. So, do you have to be sure the package was simply delivered to the Service Center before the green card expiration date? … or does it have to get there in time for them to have reviewed your packet for completeness and consider your petition to be “properly filed” before the green card expiration date? No one is 100% sure, but I would aim for the second one!

    If filing with a request to waive the “joint filing” requirement:
    According to USCIS, “you may file this petition at any time after you are granted conditional resident status and before you are removed”.

    Who should file jointly?
    An immigrant who got married for the right reason (love) and is still married to that same spouse.

    Who should file with a request to waive the “joint filing” requirement?
    1.) An immigrant who got married for the right reason (love), but their spouse died,
    2.) An immigrant who got married for the right reason (love), but then got divorced,
    3.) An immigrant who got married for the right reason (love), and is still married but has been battered or abused (i.e. experienced “extreme cruelty”) by their U.S. Citizen spouse or permanent resident spouse,
    4.) An immigrant who would experience “extreme hardship” if their green card was taken away and they were deported.


    WHY SHOULD I SEND IT IN AS EARLY AS I AM ALLOWED TO?

    If you send it in close to 90 days before your green card expires, you will likely have plenty of time to correct any deficiencies in your petition. For example, if you didn’t sign your form, or use the right version of the form, or send the money with the form, etc., USCIS will notify you of that and you’ll likely have time to correct the error before your green card expires. If you send it in late and there are deficiencies, you will not be able to correct them and your green card will expire without your status being extended.

    Another good reason to send it early is that it is nice to have the I-797 NOA proving your petition has been “properly filed” before your green card expires so you can prove you are still “legal” despite an expired green card.


    WHAT IF I FILE MY PETITION BEFORE THE 90-DAYS DATE?

    Your petition will not be accepted if you file it before the first day you are allowed to, which is 90 days before the expiration of your green card.


    WHAT IF I DO NOT FILE ON TIME?

    If you do not submit the petition and have it officially received by USCIS before your green card expires, you will be considered to be in the U.S. illegally and the process to deport you will begin. If this happens to you, you should seriously consider hiring a qualified immigration attorney as I believe you will have to apply for “Adjustment of Status” (AOS), like many may have already done once before! Of course, this means paying lots more money to the U.S. government. Check with a qualified immigration attorney on this, but I don’t think you should even try submitting the I-751 after the deadline because the gov’t will accept your money but will automatically deny your petition. (If you have to go through the AOS process, you’ll be paying plenty of money in all the associated fees then, so you should probably at least save the yourself I-751 fee!)


    DOCUMENTS PERTAINING TO CRIMINAL HISTORY

    If you have a criminal history, there are additional documents you must submit. Please refer to the Instructions for the I-751 form (http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/I-751instr.pdf


    FILLING OUT THE FORM

    Make sure you are using the correct version of the form, first of all. You can check by going to the I-751 page of the “Forms” section of the USCIS website:
    http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/I-751.pdf

    Read the form carefully. Don’t leave blank spaces! If something is “not applicable” be sure to write “N/A”. If the answer is “none” then write “none”. That keeps USCIS from being confused about anything.

    If you answer “Yes” to anything in Part 3, you need to attach a separate sheet explaining your answer. Be sure to put “Part 3, #_____” (fill in the blank with the number of the question you’re answering) and the alien’s name and Alien # at the top of each separate sheet you complete. (I also signed and dated the extra sheets for good measure, but that may not be required.) NOTE: If you’ve lived at more than one address since coming to the U.S., you will need one of these separate sheets!

    Be sure to sign and date the form!!!! (both you and your spouse if filing jointly)


    EVIDENCE THAT MUST ACCOMPANY THE FORM

    NOTE: You do NOT need to submit 2 passport size photos unless you live overseas because of government or military orders (and/or have dependant children who live overseas as indicated in Part 5 of the form). Read the instructions carefully and you’ll see this is true.

    Evidence that you are in the U.S. legally:

    - Copies of the FRONT and BACK of your green card

    Evidence that you are in a bonafide marriage:

    According to the I-751 instructions, you should submit “copies of documents indicating that the marriage upon which you were granted conditional status was entered in ''good faith'' and was not for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws. Submit copies of as many documents as you wish to establish this fact and to demonstrate the circumstances of the relationship from the date of the marriage to the present date, and to demonstrate any circumstances surrounding the end of the relationship, if it has ended. The documents should cover, but not limited to, the following examples:”

    1. Birth certificate(s) of child(ren) born to the marriage. (We also submitted ultrasound pictures our yet-to-be born baby.)

    2. Lease or mortgage documents with both your names on them. You could also include property insurance or renter’s insurance documents with both of your names on them.

    3. Financial records showing joint ownership of assets and joint responsibility for liabilities, such as:
    - joint savings and checking accounts
    - joint federal and state tax returns
    - insurance policies that show the other spouse as the beneficiary (life insurance, etc.)
    - joint utility bills (gas, electric, phone, etc.) with both of your names on them.
    - joint installments or other loans (car loans, credit cards, etc.)

    4. Any other documents you think will help to prove you married for love and not just to give the alien a green card. Some other things people have sent in are:
    - medical insurance cards with both names on them
    - car insurance documents with both names on them
    - phone records of calls made back and forth between spouses
    - 401K, IRA's, or other retirement plans with the spouse as the beneficiary
    - 2008 “Economic Stimulus” payment with both names on them
    - state vehicle registration(s) or certificates of title with both names on them
    - AAA Motor Club renewal statement addressed to both people
    - photos of trips taken together
    - travel receipts or tickets showing trips taken together

    NOTE: Copies of any of the above are fine, but originals of the following must be submitted if you choose to do so:

    5. Affidavits (or letters that have been notarized by a Notary Public) written by at least two (2) people who have known both of you since your conditional residence was granted (in other words, since you got your green card) and have personal first-hand knowledge of your marriage and relationship.
    Anyone writing these letters for you needs to know that they could potentially be required to testify before an immigration officer as to what they wrote in their letter. They also need to include the following in their letter:
    - his or her full name
    - his or her complete current address
    - his or her date of birth
    - his or her place of birth
    - his or her relationship to you or your spouse, if any
    - full information and complete details explaining how the person acquired his or her knowledge.

    NOTE: Don't send just affidavits. As noted in the I-751 Instructions, "Affidavits must be supported by other types of evidence listed above."

    NOTE: Some people have commented that they did not submit affidavits and their petition was granted, so it is possible that they are not required. However, I think they are a good idea. I’m pretty sure the authors of these letters should also include the alien’s name and alien # on them. I gave the people I asked to write letters an “outline” of a letter with my husband’s name and alien # on it and a list of the things from above that also had to be included about the author, and I e-mailed it to them so they could just type off my outline. That way I was sure no information would be left out. The people just filled in their personal information and what they wanted to say about our relationship.

    If you don’t have some of the things listed under evidence above, just submit as much of it as you can. I don’t think the government is telling you what you MUST submit, but just giving you a good idea of what they consider to be a compelling argument for proving your bonafide marriage.


    COVER LETTER OR “LIST OF EVIDENCE”

    It is not mentioned in the I-751 instructions, but many people attach a cover letter or at least an itemized list of the evidence that they are including to make it easier for the USCIS personnel to see what is being sent. I think this is a helpful thing to do.


    WHAT IS THE FILING FEE?

    The fee must accompany the form and evidence when you send it in or else they will tell you your petition is not complete and they won’t consider it “received”. As of now (March 2011), the form fee is $505. You also have to send in $85 for biometrics (fingerprinting, etc.) for a total of $545 (which can be paid by one check), PLUS an additional $80 for any conditional resident child listed in Part 5 of the form. You can use a personal check if you’d like. Some people like sending money orders, but it is not required. Just make sure your check doesn’t bounce! (Do not send cash, obviously.) If you send a personal check, you would be able to see a copy of that cancelled check which is nice.

    NOTE: Be sure to check the current version of the form to be sure you are sending in the right amount of money as the fee could change (increase) at any time! Also, unless you live in Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or outside the U.S., make your check out to: “Department of Homeland Security” – do not abbreviate. And of course your check must be drawn on a U.S. bank.


    HOW SHOULD I SEND MY PETITION?

    First, always make copies of everything you send to immigration before you send it, including copies of your check or money order!

    Second, send your package via certified return-receipt mail, or use FedEx, Airborne, or UPS so you can track your package, and require that they get a signature of the USCIS person who receives it upon delivery. I sent my packet using the post office and not only did “certified” and “return-receipt”, but also required a “signature receipt” so I could see it all online. That was nice.


    WHERE DO I SEND IT?

    As of now (Dec. 2008), there are only 2 service centers accepting I-751 forms in the U.S.:

    If you live in Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, or Wyoming, mail your petition to the California Service Center:

    USCIS California Service Center
    P.O. Box 10751
    Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1075


    If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia, mail your petition to the Vermont Service Center:

    USCIS Vermont Service Center
    75 Lower Welden St.
    P.O. Box 200
    St. Albans, VT 05479-0001


    NOTE: According to the I-751 instructions: “If you or your spouse are currently serving with or employed by the U.S. Government, either in a civilian or military capacity and assigned outside the United States, mail your petition to the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over your residence of record in the United States. Include a copy of the U.S. Government orders assigning you and your spouse abroad.”


    OFFICIAL INSTRUCTIONS ON FILLING OUT AND FILING FORM I-751

    Much of what I have written here can be found in the official USCIS instructions on filling out form I-751, located at:
    http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/I-751instr.pdf


    WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I “PROPERLY FILE” MY PETITION?

    Once the Service Center has officially “received” (i.e. reviewed and deemed to be complete) your petition, they will assign a “Receipt #” to your case. If you paid with a personal check and can see your cancelled checks online, you will likely see that number written on your check just after it has been cashed. NOTE: That is NOT the number that you can use to track your case online at the uscis.gov website!

    The service center will then send you an I-797 Notice of Action (NOA) telling you that they received and accepted your petition, and that your permanent resident status has been extended for one year during which you are authorized to continue working or traveling abroad. You’ll see the same “Receipt #” on this form as you did on your cancelled check. Again, this is not the number to use to track your case on the uscis.gov website. (You may also receive an I-797C, Notice of Action, which basically has the same information written on it as the I-797 did. I “think” this is just so you have an official copy for your records or perhaps for those of your lawyer if you used one, but for travel/employment purposes I think you need to use the I-797 and not the I-797C.)

    You will then receive another I-797 “Notice of Action” with the ASC Appointment Notice for biometrics to be done. Do not miss this appointment! NOTE: On this NOA for the ASC Appt. will be an “Application #” which is different than the “Receipt #”. It is this “Application #” that can be put into the uscis.gov website to track your case.

    After the biometrics appointment, I believe it is possible that they might send you a notice to appear for an interview. This does not happen in every case. According to the law, “If satisfied that the marriage was not for the purpose of evading the immigration laws, the regional service center director may waive the interview and approve the petition. If not so satisfied, then the regional service center director shall forward the petition to the district director having jurisdiction over the place of the alien's residence so that an interview of both the alien and the alien's spouse may be conducted. The director must either waive the requirement for an interview and adjudicate the petition or arrange for an interview within 90 days of the date on which the petition was properly filed.”

    If you have no interview, you just wait for a decision on your case. This could take up to a year in some cases currently. You can check the currently processing times at:

    https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/ptimes.jsp

    Just click on the name of the Service Center you submitted your petition to, and look for “I-751”.

    If your case is approved, you will receive notice that your new 10-year permanent green card is being made for you and will be sent to you soon. (If your case is denied, see “What if my I-751 Petition is Denied” below).


    WHAT IF I MISS THE BIOMETRICS APPOINTMENT OR INTERVIEW?

    If you do not attend the biometrics appointment, and/or interview (if scheduled), the USCIS will consider your petition to be abandoned. If your green card has expired, I’m pretty sure this puts you into illegal status. If your green card has not expired, you might have time to file another petition, but I believe you would have to pay all of the fees again (and of course get that second petition in before the green card expires). Check with a qualified immigration attorney to be sure on this point.


    WHAT HAPPENS IF I FILE ON TIME BUT THEN MY GREEN CARD EXPIRES?
    WHAT IF I WANT/NEED TO TRAVEL ABROAD?
    WHAT DO I TELL MY EMPLOYER?


    Once your petition has been “properly filed”, your permanent resident status is automatically extended for one year to allow the USCIS to process your case. This is proven by a memo written by USCIS in 2003: http://www.uscis.gov/files/pressrelease/CRextensn120203.pdf and by the law governing this process (see link below). The memo says that, “Currently, a conditional resident who files a Form I-751 receives a Form I-797, Notice of Action, extending his or her status as a conditional resident for a 1-year period. This Form I-797 also advises the conditional resident that travel and employment are authorized for that 1-year period. Thus, conditional residents with expired Forms I-551, Permanent Resident Cards, may present their expired Form I-551 and their Form I-797 as evidence of their status in the United States” meaning you use your expired green card and I-797 as proof that you are legal and when you travel to re-enter the U.S. or for any employer to whom you want to prove you are still “legal” and authorized to work.

    IMPORTANT: Prior to receiving the I-797 in the mail, I am not sure how you would be able to prove you are still “legal”. I don’t think employers or POE (Port of Entry) USCIS personnel would accept post office / FedEx / UPS / Airborne, etc. proof of delivery since that doesn’t prove that USCIS officially “accepted” your petition, giving you the one-year extension. If you had a copy of your cancelled check with the “Receipt #” on it, that is proof that USCIS accepted your petition as “properly filed” but I’m not sure employers or USCIS POE personnel would accept it as proof or not. This is another good reason to send your petition in early, though I have heard of people who sent theirs in as early as you are allowed to, but still didn’t receive their I-797 NOA until after their green card had expired 3 months later because the Service Center was so backlogged. I’m not sure what you do in that case to prove you’re “legal” in general or for employment/travel purposes.


    WHAT IF MY ONE-YEAR EXTENSION IS ABOUT TO EXPIRE AND I STILL HAVEN’T RECEIVED MY NEW GREEN CARD?

    If you still haven’t heard anything and your extension is about to expire, you can go to the appropriate immigration office with your expired green card (I-551) and the I-797 NOA. (I’m not sure if you need to make an InfoPass appointment for this or not. I think you might.) According to the 2003 USCIS memo (see link above), the USCIS officer you talk to should first check MFAS (Marriage Fraud Amendment System – see page 4 of this document: http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/p...ate_dosccd.pdf). If the Form I-751 is still pending, the officer should take your expired passport and issue to you either:
    - a temporary I-551 stamp with a 12-month expiration date in your unexpired, foreign passport (if the expiration date of the passport is one year or more); or
    - if you do not have an unexpired foreign passport, a Form I-94 (arrival portion) containing a temporary I-551 stamp with a 12-month expiration date and a photograph of the conditional resident.


    WHAT IF MY CASE IS DENIED?

    If your I-751 petition is denied, I believe you immediately lose your permanent resident status and are considered deportable. According to the law governing this process, “If the director denies the joint petition, he or she shall provide written notice to the alien of the decision and the reason(s) therefore and shall issue a notice to appear under section 239 of the Act and 8 CFR part 239 . The alien's lawful permanent resident status shall be terminated as of the date of the director's written decision. The alien shall also be instructed to surrender any Permanent Resident Card previously issued by the Service. No appeal shall lie from the decision of the director; however, the alien may seek review of the decision in removal proceedings. In such proceedings the burden of proof shall be on the Service to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the facts and information set forth by the petitioners are not true or that the petition was properly denied.” You should consult a qualified immigration attorney for your options if this happens to you.


    THE LAW GOVERNING THE I-751 PETITION PROCESS

    If you want to see the verbiage of the law itself on this process, go to:

    http://www.uscis.gov/propub/DocView/slbid/1/209/434/438


    DO I HAVE TO WAIT FOR A DECISION ON THE I-751 PETITION BEFORE APPLYING FOR U.S. CITIZENSHIP?

    No, I believe that if you are eligible to apply for citizenship and have waited the proper amount of time, you can still being the citizenship application process (N-400) even if you haven’t heard a decision on your case about the I-751. However, you should double-check with a qualified immigration attorney on this though.
    Last edited by TSK; 03-07-2011 at 05:39 PM.

    2006 Nov. 16 -- Notified of I-601 approval!!!!!
    2006 Dec. 8 -- Hubby finally back in the US - Legally!
    2008 Dec. 2 -- mailed I-751 (overnight)
    2008 Dec. 3 -- I-751 received at VT Service Ctr. per P.O. delivery notice
    2008 Dec. 8 -- I-751 fee cashed by USCIS ("receipt #" on front of cancelled check, but not in USCIS online system)
    2008 Dec. 8 -- greencard expired (cutting it close, I know....)
    2008 Dec. 12 -- I-797 (NOA) for I-751 arrived; "Receipt date" is listed as 12/4; "Notice date" is listed as 12/8.
    2008 Dec. 16 -- I-797C (NOA) for I-751 arrived
    2008 Dec. 18 -- ASC Biometrics Appt. Notice Arrived ("application #" listed, which is different than "receipt #' and is in USCIS online system, through Receipt Date listed online - 12/10 - is different than on the I-797 NOA)
    2008 Dec. 30 -- Biometrics Appt. (completed)
    2009 June 1 -- Conditions Removed; 2009 June 4 -- I-797 (NOA) came in mail to let us know!
    2009 June 23 -- New 10-yr. GC came in the mail!!!
    2013 Aug. 16 -- Hubby became a U.S. citizen. A loooong journey finally ended - happily

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