The process of applying for lawful permanent residence status – or obtaining a green card – based on marriage to a U.S. citizen can be a lot more confusing than most people realize.
In fact, most people don’t realize that there are actually two different kinds of green cards: one that’s conditional and one that’s permanent.
When do you need a conditional green card?
If you have been married for less than two years (including situations where you arrived in the United States on a K-1 fiancé visa prior to your marriage), you can initially only be granted a conditional resident green card. The idea behind this is to discourage so-called “green-card marriages,” which are essentially sham marriages that people enter into solely for immigration purposes. Toward the end of the two-year period, you can apply for an adjustment of status to obtain a permanent green card and permanent residency.
Typically, this means filing a Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (Form I-751) with your spouse, although there are exceptions for numerous situations, including where a spouse died or a bona fide marriage ended in divorce before the two-year period was over for some reason.
Before the permanent green card is granted, you can expect to go through what is called a “marriage interview” with an officer from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine if your marriage is valid. The interviewer will typically ask questions about your marriage, your family and other relevant issues that can help show that your marriage is (or was) quite real. Once you’ve obtained your permanent green card, you only need to renew your status once every 10 years.
When obtaining a green card is your ultimate goal, the path to your future can be very confusing. Learning more about the application process and the steps you need to take to obtain a permanent green card can help ease your concerns and make the path forward much clearer.