Foreigners who are granted a U.S. green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen who have been married for less than two years receive a Conditional Green Card which is valid for only two years. These Conditional Residents are required to apply to have the conditions on the green card removed before its expiration date. To do so Conditional beneficiaries must submit a Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence) at least 90 days prior to their green card expiration.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times for Form I-751 takes longer than a year. In many parts of the U.S. it would take two or more years to complete. Fortunately, during the time that a Form I-751 is in processing the applicant is still considered to be in a lawful status and can keep working and may even travel within the country. If in any case after 18 months the I-751 Application is still pending with USCIS, the applicant will need to get a stamp from his or her nearest USCIS office as evidence that he or she can continue to work and travel inside of the U.S.
Processing times for I-751 Applications are often lengthy and if the procedure goes after three years the Conditional resident living with his or her American spouse will then be eligible for U.S. Citizenship. This means that individuals will be eligible to naturalize long before they learn whether the conditions have been removed from their green card and if an approval for lawful permanent resident status is provided to them. To know more about eligibility while awaiting conditions to be removed talk with an Immigration Attorney.
Establish Whether You are Eligible for U.S. Naturalization
It is always in the best interest of Conditional residents with pending I-751 applications to find out if they qualify for U.S. Citizenship beyond simply meeting the three-year residency stipulation. Some of the requirements include:
- Maintaining good moral character for the past three years
- Having the ability to read, speak and write English effectively
- Being able to pass the U.S. Civics and History test and
- Wilfully declaring an oath of allegiance to the United States
For those who have committed a crime, or have been arrested, or convicted or have a criminal record will need to seek legal advice from an immigration attorney before considering applying for an I-751 or even naturalization. There are specific crimes that can lead to getting deported from the country as well. There is even a longer list of crimes that can bar someone from getting U.S. citizenship.
Conditional Residents who are divorced or are no longer living with their U.S. citizen spouses are not eligible for naturalization within three years, even though they still qualify for the conditions to be removed from their U.S. green cards. This is something that needs to be discussed with an immigration lawyer.
Submitting Form N-400 along with I-751 Receipt
Anyone who qualifies for U.S. citizenship is required to submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Along with their N-400 they must submit their I-751 receipt and a cover letter explaining that they want to naturalize under I.N.A. Section 319(a) expressing their desire for USCIS to make a decision on both their I-751 and N-400 at the naturalization interview. This section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (I.N.A.) permits individuals living in the U.S. with a U.S. citizen spouse three years to apply for naturalization.
It is of utmost importance to let USCIS know that you have been living in the U.S. with your U.S. citizen spouse for the past three years and also include copies of relevant supporting documents when applying for naturalization.
Talk to Your Local Immigration Attorney
If you are in doubt and you consider applying for U.S. citizenship while waiting for a decision on an I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence visit with your nearest Immigration Attorney. Contact the Gambacorta Law Office today at 847 433 9303.