If you are a foreign national and you marry a United States citizen, you can (with exceptions) apply for a green card. For this to happen, your United States citizen spouse would petition for you (the foreign national). Most people begin the green card application very shortly after their marriage so as to avoid problems with being in the United States unlawfully. Although there is nothing wrong with this, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will examine these cases with extreme scrutiny. This is done because USCIS is tasked with the duty to prevent marriage fraud and not allow immigrants who marry for fraudulent reasons to obtain immigration benefits.
What is a Conditional Resident?
If you are married to your spouse for 2 years or less and received your green card in that time period, you will be considered a conditional resident. The reason that these immigrants are considered "conditional" deals with the scrutiny as discussed above. USCIS wants to ensure that your marriage is not fraudulent or a sham. You will be a conditional resident for two years from the date that you receive your approval.
NOTE: conditional residency EXPIRES after the year year validity period. You MUST apply to remove conditions in order to stay in lawful status in the United States BEFORE the two year period has ran. Failure to do so could result in your removal from the United States.
Differences between Conditional and Permanent Residency
A conditional and permanent resident share a lot of the same rights and benefits. A conditional resident may apply for employment using only their green card and may travel in and outside of the country. It is important to note that a permanent resident can abandon his or her status if they stay out of the United States for a long period of time.
The main difference between these two statuses if that a conditional status does expire and without renewal, you will no longer be in the United States lawfully. The process to remove the conditions off of your green card can be extremely complicated. It is highly recommended that you hire an experienced immigration attorney to assist with this matter. It is EXTREMELY important that you remember to remove the conditions off your green card or else you can become removable from the United States.
Can I Divorce My Spouse and Still be a Permanent Resident?
This is an extremely common question. Unfortunately, many marriages just do not work out based upon a number of reasons. If this happens to you, and you are still a conditional resident, you should hire an attorney immediately. Although this does not bar you from removing the conditions on your green card, it can make the process much more complex and difficult.
If Married Longer than Two Years
If you and your spouse have been married for longer than two years when you receive your green card, then you will NOT be considered a conditional resident, but a normal permanent resident. This is because you have already passed the time period for the intense scrutiny done by USCIS. When you receive your green card, you will have a valid green card for ten years.
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