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Every foreign national who immigrates to the US by marriage to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) is given a two-year green card. They are conditional residents. To remove the “conditions” and become a lawful permanent resident requires the filing of a form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. This is typically done during the 90 days before the two-year green card expires (there are exceptions to this filing window for people filing with a waiver based on divorce or abuse). Once approved, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues the foreign national a 10-year green card. At this point, the foreign national becomes a lawful permanent resident.
While the process and the steps involved are fairly consistent, the time it takes to process the I-751 will vary significantly based on several factors. This includes the number of applications that USCIS is handling at any given time, how busy the particular USCIS office is in which the application was filed, and the applicant’s ability to properly file an accurate and complete I-751 petition.
A properly completed I-751 not only ensures a successful application but it also expedites its processing. If the form is improperly completed or fails to include critical documentation, USCIS will frequently send the applicant a Notice of Action to reject the petition or a Request for Evidence that asks the applicant to submit additional items. Either can significantly delay the application. It is thus critical to prepare the I-751 correctly and submit all required supporting documents.
Assuming an I-751 is properly completed and has all the required materials attached to it, it is submitted to USCIS. Approximately four to six weeks after its submission, USCIS should respond by mailing a receipt notice that confirms that the petition was received. This document is formally known as a form I-797C, Notice of Action (see example below).
This I-797C will extend the applicant’s conditional residence for an additional amount of time (currently 24 months) while USCIS reviews the application. Once the two-year green card has expired, applicants who need to prove that they are lawful residents will need to show their expired green card and the I-797C. Together, they demonstrate the lawful presence of the applicant in the US and will allow the applicant to reenter the US from abroad, accept employment in the US or do anything else that requires a green card.
If you do not receive a Notice of Action, you can inquire here.
The Notice of Action also has a 10-digit receipt number on it that is important to save. You can use this receipt number to check the status of your application here.
For current average processing times on I-751 cases, USCIS will give you a range at this link.
For a guide on how to interpret the processing time information, this is a helpful link.
If your case has been pending for so long that you are now outside of the normal processing times, you should consider filing a federal lawsuit to have a judge intervene in your case and force USCIS to decide your case. These cases use the Administrative Procedure Act and a Writ of Mandamus to compel the government to take certain actions that have been delayed. For more information on immigration delay litigation, please visit our Immigration Delay Litigation webpage on these cases and their benefits.