The United States offers numerous opportunities to immigrants seeking to build a life in the country. For Iranian couples, marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is one of the most common paths to obtaining permanent residency (a green card). However, the process can be complex, particularly for conditional green cards. This comprehensive guide will provide an overview of conditional green cards for Iranian couples, exploring the requirements, application process, and the steps to remove the conditions and obtain a permanent green card.
Understanding Conditional Green Cards
A conditional green card is a temporary, two-year form of permanent residency granted to certain foreign nationals who have married a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. You will receive a conditional green card if granted a green card within two years of your marriage date. The purpose of the conditional green card is to ensure that the marriage is bona fide, or genuine, and not entered into for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.
Applying for a Conditional Green Card
The application process for a conditional green card for Iranian couples will depend on the location of the foreign spouse. If the foreign spouse is already in the United States, the couple will file an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with any required supporting documents with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This process is known as adjustment of status.
The couple will go through consular processing if the foreign spouse lives outside the United States. The U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse will file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS. Once approved, the case will be transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will instruct the foreign spouse to complete the DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application and submit the required supporting documents. Once all documentation is received, the NVC will schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the foreign spouse's country.
Whether you are applying within the United States or abroad at an embassy, Iranian couples must provide evidence of their bona fide marriage. It is essential to provide ample evidence to support the authenticity of the marriage to avoid potential delays or denials; this can include:
Conditional Green Card Approval
Upon approval of the conditional green card, the foreign spouse will receive a green card valid for two years. This card allows the foreign spouse to live and work in the United States, travel internationally, and apply for a Social Security number. It is essential to remember that the rights and benefits associated with a conditional green card are contingent on the continued validity of the marriage. There are exceptions to the requirement that the couple must stay married and live in marital union if there has been a divorce or evidence of abuse or domestic violence. It is best to consult with an attorney if you have a conditional green card and are potentially getting divorced or facing spousal abuse or domestic violence.
Removing Conditions on the Green Card
To convert a conditional green card into a permanent one 10-year green card, Iranian couples must file Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence) within 90 days before the conditional green card expires. Failure to do so may result in the foreign spouse losing their permanent resident status and facing removal proceedings.
The I-751 petition requires the submission of various supporting documents, similar to the initial green card application, to demonstrate that the marriage is still bona fide. In addition to updated evidence of joint finances and cohabitation, Iranian couples may also include documentation of any children born during the marriage or affidavits from friends and family members who can attest to the ongoing validity of the marriage.
In some cases, Iranian couples may need to attend an interview with a USCIS officer to verify the ongoing validity of their marriage. Being prepared for this interview is crucial, as the officer will ask questions about the couple's relationship, living arrangements, and daily routines. The more consistent and detailed the answers, the higher the chances of successfully removing the conditions on the green card.
Waivers for the Joint Filing Requirement
As mentioned previously, there are situations where the conditional resident may be unable to file the I-751 petition jointly with their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. A waiver for the joint filing requirement may be sought in these cases. Some common scenarios where a waiver might be necessary include:
If any of these situations apply, Iranian couples should consult an experienced immigration attorney to determine the best course of action and gather the necessary evidence to support their waiver request.
Processing Times and Potential Delays
The processing time for removing conditions on a green card can vary, typically 12 to 36 months. However, it is essential to note that processing times can change. It may be impacted by factors such as application backlogs at local USCIS offices and the complexity of individual cases.
While waiting for the approval of the I-751 petition, the foreign spouse's permanent resident status is automatically extended for up to 24 months. You can continue to live, work, and travel with proof of your expired conditional green card and the I-751 receipt notice showing your green card extension duration.
To avoid potential delays in the process, Iranian couples should ensure that they submit complete and accurate applications, along with all necessary supporting documentation. If additional evidence or information is required, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE), which can extend the processing time. Responding promptly and thoroughly to any RFEs will help minimize delays.
Obtaining and maintaining a conditional green card is crucial for Iranian couples seeking to build a life together in the United States. By understanding the requirements, application process, and steps to remove conditions, Iranian couples can navigate the complexities of the U.S. immigration system more efficiently. Seeking the guidance of a qualified immigration attorney can also provide valuable support and expertise throughout this journey, ensuring that the couple's path to permanent residency is as smooth and successful as possible.
--Najmeh Mahmoudjafari, Esq.
Najmeh is the Founder and Lead Immigration Attorney at ImmigraTrust Law (www.ImmigraTrust.com), an immigration law practice in Orange County, California, representing individual and corporate clients in all 50 U.S. States and internationally. Najmeh can be reached at Najmeh@ImmigraTrust.com.
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Our top-rated and highly experienced attorney at ImmigraTrust Law is Najmeh Mahmoudjafari, Esq., our best Persian immigration lawyer in California. We understand that every case is unique and work closely with our clients to provide personalized solutions that meet their individual needs. We have extensive experience working with Iranian and Muslim communities and understand their specific challenges when dealing with the US immigration system.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended and does not constitute legal advice. This article does not create an attorney/client relationship and does not provide an attorney/client privilege. For legal advice about your specific case, please contact an attorney.
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