What’s The Difference Between A 2-Year And 10-Year Green Card?

Erick Widman

There are many elements of immigration law, policy, and practice that may seem arbitrary or mysterious at first glance. It may be confusing why one person received their green card with no problems while another was issued multiple requests for evidence and asked to complete an interview. It may seem unfair that your case is still pending while someone you know was approved months ago.

In a few cases, it simply boils down to luck, timing, or minor circumstances that can make a big difference in the processing of your petition or application. In other cases, however, there may be a simple and straightforward answer that explains why your case is being handled in a certain way despite others having a different experience.

Green Cards: 2-year and 10-year

One example of this is the issuance of the 2-year “conditional” green card versus the standard 10-year green card. If you received a conditional green card, you are probably wondering why some people received a 10-year green card instead of a 2-year.

When going through the arduous process of applying for a green card, a common goal is to extend reapplication for as long as possible. However, there are some requirements you should be aware of that affect time frames in these situations. Couples who have been married less than two years at the time of your green card approval will only receive a 2-year conditional green card from USCIS. This shorter, 2-year green card requires an additional petition to “remove conditions” on permanent resident status in order to receive a 10-year card.

In family-based immigration, the reason for receiving a 2-year green card is that you have been married to your US citizen spouse for less than two years when your permanent resident status is approved. This rule is viewed by USCIS as a safeguard against fraud. It is intended to reduce the likelihood of people getting married simply to obtain a green card. If you and your spouse are recently married, and your adjustment of status or immigrant visa interview occurs prior to being married for two years, you will be receiving a 2-year conditional green card.

What A 2-year Green Card Means

If you have received this conditional type of green card, keep in mind there is nothing wrong with receiving this. The system is operating as it was designed. A conditional resident has all the rights and privileges of someone with a 10-year card. You can still live and work in the US, as well as travel.

However, it does require some additional work and diligence. Since you have been married to your US citizen spouse for a short period of time, USCIS is going to make you jump through an additional hoop (called the I-751 or removal of conditions process). They require you to complete this step in order to prove that you have a genuine marriage that has continued to be genuine since your initial entry into the US. It is important to remember that this form must be filed at least 90 days before your 2-year green card expires. If you are late in filing this petition, you must submit an explanation showing good cause for late filing.

When filing Form I-751, you must submit new evidence of your bona fide relationship with your spouse to USCIS. Some examples of strong evidence to provide are:

  • a shared lease, rental agreement, or mortgage
  • photos together and with friends and family
  • joint bank accounts and utility bills
  • evidence of your daily correspondence
  • sworn declarations from friends and family

USCIS wants to see that you reside together, have intermingled finances and resources, and that other people in your life – such as friends, family, and co-workers – can attest to your genuine relationship.

The alternative to receiving this 2-year conditional green card is, of course, receiving the 10-year card. A 10-year green card is issued automatically to spouses of US citizens who have been married longer than two years at the time of approval. In this case, you get to skip the I-751 step and become eligible to:

  • naturalize (after three or five years)
  • renew your green card every ten years (with Form I-90)

Divorce and the 2-year Green Card

An important question that can arise from recipients of the 2-year conditional green card is what happens if I do separate from my US-citizen spouse? Getting divorced or separated from your spouse does not automatically mean that you had a fraudulent marriage. It is unfortunately common for a marriage to change or to fail, but it can be worrisome when it means that you cannot easily provide the required evidence to timely file an I-751 and maintain your status in the US.

The good news is that it is possible to file an I-751 even if you are separated, divorced, or widowed from your US-citizen spouse. This application can be filed without the consent or signature of the US citizen, and a lack of evidence of your relationship can be supplemented with a waiver explaining the circumstances of the marriage and how it came to an end. Marital issues are very common, and these unfortunate circumstances should not necessitate uprooting your life. We discuss this process in more detail in this blog post.

In short, whether you receive a 2-year or 10-year green card depends on the length of your marriage. If you were married to your US-citizen partner for more than two years when you applied for permanent residency, you would be eligible for a 10-year green card. Shorter marriages require a 2-year green card.

Do you have further questions about your green card or the requirements for receiving one? Reach out to Passage Immigration for help with your legal and immigration needs. We have a dedicated team of compassionate and knowledgeable experts ready to help you. Visit our website or call (503) 427-8243 to speak with us.

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