US Updates Policy On Marriage-Based Green Cards

    (JAMAICA GLEANER) – The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated how it handles some conditional permanent residence permits issued to immigrants who marry Americans or legal permanent residents, the Miami Herald reports.

    According to the news outlet, green cards issued to foreign spouses are normally conditional and are only valid for two years.

    After that time, immigrants can obtain permanent cards if the couple proves they did not marry just to get around US immigration law.

    But sometimes immigrants do not apply for a process known as a petition to remove conditions on permanent residence based on marriage either because they have divorced or they simply forgot.

    Up to now, if that happened and the immigrants wanted to apply for US residence again because of a second marriage or other eligibility categories, they had to wait until an immigration judge affirmed the termination of their conditional permanent resident status before they could file a new application.

    “Because USCIS often did not send the information to the courts, these immigrants wound up in a terrible limbo: unable to renew their old residence or apply for a new one,” said attorney Elina Santana, a member of the South Florida branch of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, was quoted as saying.

    “They could not travel and they did not have residence cards. At the practical level, it was like they were in the country illegally,” said Santana.

    New policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual announced Thursday puts an end to some of that uncertainty in certain circumstances, clarifying when the agency may adjust the status of a foreign national whose conditional permanent resident status has been cancelled.

    The policy update establishes that an immigration judge “does not need to affirm the termination of CPR (conditional permanent resident) status before the alien can file a new adjustment of status application,” USCIS said in a news release.

    “That means that a final order from a judge is not required to consider the first residence as cancelled,” said Santana.

    “So those who qualify again for residence can apply directly to USCIS without the previous limbo.”

    According to the Department of Homeland Security’s agency, petitioners can seek new permanent residence status if their conditional permanent resident status has been terminated and they meet one of three requirements:

    ▪ The immigrants have new basis for adjustment of status

    ▪ The immigrants are otherwise eligible to adjust status

    ▪ USCIS has jurisdiction over the application to adjust their status

    The USCIS announcement also noted that the period lived by an immigrant in the United States under the previous conditional permanent resident status does not count toward the time required for obtaining US citizenship through naturalisation.

    The federal agency added that the new guidelines apply to adjustment of status applications filed after Thursday, November 21.


    Under US regulations, married couples who want to remove the conditional status from a green card to get full permanent residence must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, during the 90 days before the second anniversary as a conditional resident.

    That application generally requires an interview with a USCIS official.

    Immigrants also can file a “waiver of the joint filing requirement due to a termination of marriage,” by accompanying the application with several documents such as the final divorce or annulment decree.