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Unveiling the Distinction: Conditional Resident vs. Permanent Resident
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Unveiling the Distinction: Conditional Resident vs. Permanent Resident

Are you curious about the journey of turning "I do" into a permanent stay in the U.S.? Navigating the world of green cards after marriage can feel like exploring uncharted territory.

Whether you're holding a conditional green card or aiming for a permanent one, this guide will break down the differences and help you find your way through the twists and turns of the immigration process.

Here, SimVisa unveils the details of a conditional green card vs. a permanent green card — because every love story deserves a happy ending, including yours!

What Is a Conditional Green Card?

A conditional green card is like a temporary step toward permanent residency in the U.S. It's usually granted to spouses of U.S. citizens who have been married for less than two years at the time of application. This card grants "conditional" status, which means that it's valid for only two years.

This shorter time frame allows immigration authorities to ensure that the marriage is genuine and not just a way to obtain residency in the U.S. You'll have to prove that your marriage is legitimate by filing a joint petition to remove the conditions before the two-year mark. If all goes well, you can move on to obtaining a permanent green card.

What Is a Permanent Green Card?

What Is a Permanent Green Card?

A permanent green card, on the other hand, is a ticket to long-term residency in the U.S. Marriage-based permanent green cards are issued to those who have been married for more than two years at the time of application or who have successfully removed the conditions from their conditional green card.

This card grants a more stable status, allowing you to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. Getting a permanent green card means you've passed through the necessary checks and requirements, and you're well on your way to considering the U.S. your permanent home.

Key Differences Between Conditional and Permanent Green Cards

Navigating the world of green cards can be a bit like deciphering a puzzle. But fear not; we're here to shed light on the contrasts between the conditional green card and the permanent green card. Let's dive into the nuances that set them apart and demystify the path to long-term U.S. residency.

Purpose and Intent


The primary difference between a conditional green card and a permanent green card lies in its purpose and intent.

A conditional green card is issued to spouses of U.S. citizens who have been married for less than two years. Its purpose is to verify the authenticity of the marriage and prevent fraudulent attempts to obtain permanent residency.

On the other hand, a permanent green card is granted to individuals who have met the criteria for long-term residency and intend to permanently live and work in the United States.

Duration of Validity

The duration of validity is another notable difference. A conditional green card is typically valid for two years. Within 90 days before the card expires, you'll need to apply for a permanent green card.

If your application is successful, the conditions will be removed, and you'll receive a permanent green card valid for 10 years. While you'll need to request a new card before it expires, the status granted by a permanent green card doesn't come with an expiration date, providing you with indefinite residency in the U.S.

Removal of Conditions vs. Renewal

For a conditional green card holder, the process of removing conditions involves jointly filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, with your spouse to prove the legitimacy of your marriage within the 90-day period before the card's expiration. The application involves submitting evidence of your continued marital relationship and meeting certain requirements.

However, a permanent green card holder doesn't need to go through the removal of conditions process. Instead, they enjoy a more straightforward renewal process by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, every 10 years to keep their status up to date.

Impact on Travel and Work

Impact on Travel and Work

With a conditional green card, you're free to travel and work within the U.S., just like a permanent green card holder. However, it's important to note that frequent or extended trips abroad might raise questions during the conditions removal process.

A permanent green card offers more flexibility when it comes to travel, as absence from the U.S. for short periods doesn't jeopardize your status. Both cards allow you to work and live without additional employment authorization.

Citizenship Eligibility

Citizenship Eligibility

One of the ultimate goals for many green card holders is to become a U.S. citizen.

Generally, green card holders must hold permanent residency for five years before becoming eligible for naturalization. However, if you obtained a permanent green card based on a long-term marriage to a U.S. citizen, the waiting period is just three years. This shorter time frame reflects the longer-term commitment and integration expected from spouses of U.S. citizens.

If you've obtained a conditional green card, you'll need to wait for three years after obtaining the permanent green card (provided you remain married to the same U.S. citizen spouse) before you're eligible to apply for citizenship.

How to Transition from a Conditional to a Permanent Green Card

You've started your journey with a conditional green card in hand, and now you're aiming for permanent residence status. Think of it as moving from a trial membership to a full-fledged residency — exciting, right?

We'll explain the steps needed to transition smoothly from the conditional green card to the enduring privileges of permanent residency. From the paperwork shuffle to the waiting game, SimVisa will provide the playbook for this transformative journey.

Step 1: Filing Form I-751 and Supporting Documents

The journey from a conditional to a permanent green card starts with filing Form I-751, the Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. This form is the key to proving the legitimacy of your marriage and transitioning to permanent residency. You and your spouse will need to jointly complete and submit Form I-751 within the 90-day window before your conditional green card expires.

Along with the form, you'll provide extensive documentation that demonstrates the continuation of your genuine marital relationship. This may include joint financial records, shared property or assets, and family photos. The goal is to showcase your ongoing commitment to your spouse and your life together.

Step 2: Biometrics Appointment

Once your Form I-751 is filed, you'll receive a notice for a biometrics appointment. During this appointment, you'll need to provide your fingerprints, photograph, and signature. This step is crucial for background checks and identity confirmation.

The information collected will be used to verify your identity throughout the processing of your petition. After you complete the biometrics appointment, your application will continue to be reviewed.

Step 3: Interview Process

Step 3: Interview Process

In some cases, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may schedule an interview as part of the process to remove the conditions on your green card. The purpose of the interview is to ensure the validity of your marriage and gather any additional information that may be needed.

You and your spouse will be questioned separately to assess the authenticity of your relationship. It's important to be prepared and bring any additional evidence that may further support your case. While interviews are not always conducted, being ready for this step can streamline the process.

Step 4: Approval and Receipt of Permanent Green Card

If all goes well with your application, biometrics appointment, and if applicable, the interview, you'll receive an approval notice from USCIS. This notice signifies that the conditions on your residency have been removed, and USCIS will issue your permanent green card.

You can expect to receive your new green card through the mail. This card marks your official transition from a conditional resident to a permanent resident, granting you the privileges and benefits of long-term residency in the United States.

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What happens if my marriage ends before I apply to remove conditions on my green card?

If you divorce or annul your marriage before you apply for the removal of conditions on your permanent resident status, you could still qualify for a waiver from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

To receive this waiver, you must demonstrate the genuine intention behind the initial marriage and show that it was not an attempt to evade immigration laws. If you're a foreign national with conditional residency due to a marriage-based green card and are dealing with a failing marriage, you might benefit from speaking to an immigration lawyer.

Can I apply for U.S. citizenship with a conditional green card?

A conditional permanent resident cannot directly apply for U.S. citizenship. First, you must transition from conditional to permanent green card status, which entails successfully removing the conditions tied to your residency. Thus, foreign nationals seeking to become U.S. citizens through marriage-based green cards must become lawful permanent residents before applying for naturalization.

How long does it take to remove conditions on my green card?

The processing time for removing conditions can vary. On average, it takes about 18 to 24 months to complete the process, including filing Form I-751, scheduling the biometrics appointment, and attending the interview, if required.

Your Path to Permanent Residency: Get Professional Help from SimVisa Today!

In the realm of immigration, understanding the distinction between a conditional green card and a permanent green card is pivotal. While the conditional card initiates the journey, the permanent card solidifies your status as a long-term resident.

Whether you're navigating the intricacies of marriage-based immigration or seeking to transition from one status to another, having the right guidance is crucial.

At SimVisa, our immigration law firm in Chicago, we're dedicated to simplifying this journey for you. Let our experienced team assist you in making the right decisions, filling out the necessary forms, and guiding you through a smooth transition from conditional to permanent residency. Contact us today to embark on a path toward a more secure future in the United States.

Unveiling the Distinction: Conditional Resident vs. Permanent Resident
SohYoon Atac
co-founder of SimVisa

Sohyoon is the co-founder of SimVisa. She has over 15 years of immigration specific experience and as an immigrant herself, fully understands the daunting nature of navigating the immigration process.

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