A common way of obtaining lawful status in the U.S. is through marriage to a citizen or lawful permanent resident. However, many are unaware that if the lawful residency was obtained based on a marriage that is less than two years old, the residency is considered conditional. A conditional residency means that the authorized residency is valid for two years, and before those two years are up, the applicant must apply to remove that condition.
There are several grounds upon which one is eligible to remove a condition on a residency: 1) the applicant is still married to the original petitioner after two years; 2) the applicant is widowed and entered into the marriage in good faith; 3) the applicant is now divorced, but the marriage was entered into in good faith; or 4) the applicant or the applicant’s child were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by the petitioner. The application to remove the conditions must be filed during the 90 days prior to the end of the 2 years.
Often, the application will forget to file to remove the conditions on their lawful residency. Once the 2 years of conditional residency have expired, and the condition has not been removed, the conditional resident status automatically terminates and subjects the individual to removal from the U.S. However, the conditional resident may file after the 90 day period if you can show good cause for failing to file the application on time. This application for good cause is discretionary so it is very important that the application to remove conditions be submitted timely.
As stated above, a petition to remove the conditions may be filed even though the couple is already divorced or the marriage was annulled. However, the applicant must show that the marriage was entered into good faith. In other words, the applicant must show that the marriage was not entered into for solely immigration purposes. So although an applicant may be concerned about their residency when their marriage is not working out, there are ways to remove the conditions without the original petitioner. Sometimes, the applicant may even file to remove conditions when a divorce is not finalized yet.
Obtaining lawful permanent residence is not always as easy as getting married to a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. There are steps that the applicant must continue to take in certain situations. Also, the reality is that marriage does not always work out, but that does not mean that your residency does too.