This April marks my second year as an immigrant here in the US (I know, can you believe it?), and with that comes more immigration-related things to deal with. Allow me to deviate a little from the typical travel and lifestyle posts you read here on SCATTERBRAIN in order to share my personal experience about my application/petition to remove my conditional resident status.
How do I know if I'm qualified to apply for this petition?
The following are the eligibility criteria. Generally, you may apply to remove your conditions on permanent residence if you:
- Are still married to the same US Citizen or permanent resident after two (2) years. You may include your children (if any) in your application if they received their conditional-resident status either at the same time or within 90 days as you did;
- Are a child and, for a valid reason, cannot be included in your parents' application;
- Are a widow or widower who entered into your marriage in good faith;
- Entered into a marriage in good faith, but the marriage ended through divorce or annulment; or
- Entered into a marriage in good faith, but either you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by your US-Citizen or permanent-resident spouse.
Given the above-mentioned information, note that the first bullet applies best to me based on the following details about my case (take note of the dates):
- I am married to a naturalized US Citizen;
- We got married in the Philippines in December 2013;
- We filed for I-130, Petition for Alien Relative in February 2014, and I was granted an IR/CR-1, Immigrant Visa for Spouse or Fiancé(e) of a US Citizen in March 2015; and
- I entered the United States via Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in April 18, 2015.
What makes the dates in my case important?
From there you will realize that I arrived in the US prior to our second wedding anniversary, hence I obtained conditional permanent resident status through an immigrant visa. In order to be granted removal of this conditional status, Roan and I must jointly file a petition, Form I-751, together with 2-years worth of legal supporting documents to demonstrate that we entered into the marriage in good faith, and not to evade the immigration laws of the US.
When should I file Form I-751?
When filing jointly with your spouse, you must file it during the 90-day period immediately before your conditional residence expires. Since mine will expire on April 18, 2017, we filed our petition packet as soon as my 90-day window opened in January.
What did you include in your I-751 packet?
From the day we filed our I-130 form, we've always gone for the "everything but the sink" approach in gathering supporting documents to provide to the USCIS. In addition to whatever's written in the instructions, we usually go overboard and submit everything that could be considered a reliable source of evidence to prove that our relationship is legal in every sense of the word. We personally feel that this is so much better than receiving a lack of sufficient evidence notice from the USCIS.
- [ ] Cover Letter
- [ ] Duly-completed and signed Form I-751
- [ ] Cashier's Check: $680 ($595 Filing Fee + $85 Biometrics Fee); note that the filing fee may change without prior notice. Always check back on the USCIS website to verify the current filing fee.
- [ ] Photocopy of Form I-551 (Green Card)
- [ ] Photocopy of Marriage Certificate
- [ ] Photocopy of Lease Agreement (to show both names and same home address)
- [ ] Photocopy of IRS Tax Transcripts (as Married Filing Jointly)
- [ ] Photocopy of my and Roan's Driver's Licenses (to show same mailing address)
- [ ] Photocopy of my and Roan's Passports
- [ ] Photocopy of Car Loans/Insurance (that show joint ownership)
- [ ] Photocopy of Health Insurance Policy (I'm listed as Roan's dependent)
- [ ] Photocopies of Household Bills (i.e., apartment rent, utilities, etc. that show both names in the statement of account)
- [ ] Joint Bank Statements of Account (Checking and Savings)
- [ ] Couple Photos (since the beginning of the relationship) / Travel Photos / Travel Tickets
- [ ] Sworn Statements by US Citizen Friends (who have witnessed the relationship/marriage since the beginning)
- [ ] and any other legal document that will suffice as evidence
Luckily, we have lived in the same place for two (2) years, so the mailing address in our documents has remained the same since. While having a joint bank account and/or car loans listed under both names comes down to personal preference, Roan and I have both agreed from the beginning that it will be best to share the responsibilities, knowing that we will have to present evidence in situations such as this in the future.
Form I-797, Notice of Action (I-751 NOA1)
I failed to take a photo of the packet that we sent to USCIS, but we managed to gather a tall pile of paperwork that includes all of the above-mentioned documents in the checklist. It only took me less than a week (prior to the start of 90-day window) to finalize and compile all documents because I've had most of them readily available since day 1. Anyway, we sent our I-751 packet on January 19, 2017.
We received our I-751 NOA1 within the week, indicating that they received our packet (and payment of $680) on January 23, 2017. It is also stated in this letter that my conditional status is extended for another year. During this 1-year extension, I am authorized employment and travel (in and outside of the country). Also stated in this letter that I should expect to receive an Application Support Center (ASC) notice with a specific time, date, and location to capture my biometrics (i.e., fingerprints, photo, and signature).
Form I-797C, Notice of Action (ASC Appointment Notice)
I received my ASC Appointment Notice two weeks from the last letter. My biometrics was scheduled on February 17, 2017 at the ASC in Chula Vista, which was about an hour drive from work. My appointment wasn't until 1:00PM, so I still showed up at work in the morning. Roan went with me in spite of telling him that I could go on my own.
Upon coming in, they asked for my ASC Appointment Notice and green card, then gave me a number and a 1-page form to fill out. I was probably just lucky because I didn't have to wait too long. When they called my number, they simply verified the information in the filled out form against the letter from the USCIS, and asked me to proceed to the next room for biometrics. It only took 15 minutes tops to get all my fingerprints, photo, and signature done.
Now, we wait. Based on the Immigration Timeline for I-751 (Lifting Conditions) in California Service Center, they are currently processing petitions filed in May 2016. Meaning to say, it will probably take about 10 to 12 months before a final decision is made. At this rate, we're probably looking into final approval by the end of this year. As always, I shall update this post should anything else comes up (e.g., requiring further evidence or interview) before a decision is made.