The form, I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, allows a conditional resident who obtained status through marriage, to request that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) remove the conditions on his or her residence. It is a form used to upgrade a 2-year conditional green card to a full 10-year green card. This process is called the “removal of conditions” on the marriage-based green card and is important because a conditional green card otherwise expires after 2 years.
Conditional (or “CR-1”) green cards are issued to people who have been married for less than 2 years when they gain permanent residence through marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder. Everyone issued a conditional green card must file Form I-751 shortly before the 2nd year anniversary of their green card’s approval.
How does the Denial Process Work?
If your case is denied, you will receive a letter from USCIS explaining the reason for the decision. That letter will also include a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court for removal proceedings. You will have a chance to present your case again before the immigration judge, as you defend yourself against removal from the United States. If all goes well, the judge may grant you permanent residence. It is important to understand why your petition was denied, so you can obtain better evidence or better prepare.
What are the Most Common Reasons for an I-751 Denial?
Separation or Divorce
Sometimes an applicant and the original US Citizen petitioner have marital problems before the I-751 is adjudicated. If the applicants are separated, both are still expected to be present at the interview. If one spouse fails to attend, the I-751 is denied. If the applicant attends the interview and the divorce is still pending and not finalized, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence requesting a divorce decree. If the divorce decree is not finalized, then the application will be denied.
Marriage fraud, immigration violations, and a criminal record that designates inadmissibility to the U.S. are primary disqualifications for approving your I-751 petition.
Late or No Filing
USCIS provides very specific guidelines on the timing for filing your Form I-751. When filing jointly with your spouse, you must file the petition with USCIS within 90 days before the expiration date on the conditional green card.
If you file the I-751 petition too early, USCIS will reject it and mail it back to you. If you file too late, USCIS may deny your I-751 petition and refer your case to immigration court for removal proceedings. If you are filing your application late, USCIS expects a good explanation to excuse the late filing.
Denial for Insufficient Documentation of Bona Fide Marriage
Often times, applicants fail to include important documents to show that their marriage was bona fide. A bona fide marriage is a marriage entered into in good faith. To prove a marriage is bona fide, USCIS prefers photos of a shared life together, joint finances, lease agreements, insurance documents, tax documents and other financial documents to prove that the applicants do, indeed, live a shared life together. Where this is insufficient evidence, USCIS may deny the I-751.
A bona fide marriage was entered in “good faith.” Such marriage differs from a marriage entered to circumvent U.S. immigration laws – otherwise known as a fraudulent marriage. To prove that you are in a bona fide marriage, the immigration officer will look for evidence of (1) cohabitation, (2) raising children together, (3) commingling of finances, (4) intimacy, and (5) affidavits.
Evidence of Cohabitation
Generally, a married couple will live together. Although this is not always the case, it’s an indicator and good evidence to establish the couple has a bona fide marriage. The following are examples of acceptable documents you may use as evidence of cohabitation:
- Utility bills showing the same address (electricity, water, gas, trash, cable, internet, cell phone, etc.)
- 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
- Affidavits from friends, family, neighbors, and landlords attesting to cohabitation (see the section on affidavits)
Evidence of Raising Children Together
Proof of a child born into the marriage is compelling evidence of a genuine marital relationship. Adopted or step-children raised in the household may also help establish a bona fide marriage. The following are examples of acceptable documents you may use as evidence of raising children together:
- Birth certificates showing both spouses as parents
- Adoption certificates showing both spouses as parents
- Evidence of a relationship with children or step-children (photos, school records, affidavits from friends, family, and teachers)
- Medical records evidencing an ongoing pregnancy
Evidence of Commingling of Finances
Married couples will generally combine financial resources. This commingling of finances is strong evidence of your good faith marriage. The following are examples of acceptable documents you may use as evidence of commingling of finances:
- Bank statements for joint checking, savings, and credit card accounts
- Voided and canceled checks for joint accounts
- Statements for joint loans or loans where one spouse is a co-signor for the other spouse
- Copies of bank statements from separate accounts that show you share jointly in your financial responsibilities and big purchases
Evidence of Intimacy
In most cases, couples filing Form I-751 are new to marriage. The following are examples of acceptable documents you may use as evidence of a strong marriage
- Travel itineraries and hotel bookings from joint vacations or trips
- Photos from joint vacations or trips particularly trips abroad to visit family members
- Tickets to events you both attended or plan to attend
- Receipts for any gifts you have purchased for each other
Consider asking your friends, family, neighbors, and employers to attest to the genuineness of your marriage. Affidavits help to support other types of evidence listed above. You may supply affidavits sworn to or affirmed by people who have known both of you since your conditional residence was granted and have personal knowledge of your marriage and relationship.
What to do If Your I-751 Is Denied
If your I-751 is denied, you likely face referral of your case through the issuance of a Notice to Appear. If this happens, your case will be heard by an immigration judge who will review all the evidence and make a ruling. However, sometimes it is better to re-file the I-751 if you believe the reasons of the denial can be overcome by new evidence.
Contact Yekrangi & Associates Today
Proving you’re in a “bona fide” marriage can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. For more information, contact the Orange County Immigration Attorneys at Yekrangi & Associates today. You are not alone, and we will fight for you. Yekrangi & Associates works to meet a higher standard. Our first goal is your satisfaction. Contact us at (949) 478-4963 to schedule a consultation or complete our convenient “Get Your Consultation” form here. We are located in Irvine, California.