What happens if my I-751 and N-400 interviews are merged?
When issued a family-based green card USCIS will either issue you, as the beneficiary, a 10 year green card or a conditional 2-year green card. If you find yourself in the latter position as a two year green card holder, do not worry - this is likely due to your recent marriage of two years or less with your U.S. citizen spouse who petitioned for your family-based green card. This does not jeopardize your opportunity to obtain a regular ten year green card down the road, however you are required to take an extra step by filing form I-751 removal of conditions to obtain your ten year green card.
As a result, you are eligible to file form I-751 three months before the expiration date on your conditional green card. If you continue to take part in the marriage between the US citizen spouse that petitioned for your initial green card you will need to prove to USCIS the continued “genuine marriage” between the two. The purpose of demonstrating to USCIS the continued successful relationship is to avoid any questioning of a fraudulent marriage for the sole purpose of an immigration benefit. Evidence such as recent pictures of the couple together, joint bank statements, mortgages or properties under both individuals' names are helpful to meet this criteria. To read more about supporting evidence to meet USCIS standards, please click here. Keep in mind that if you are no longer married to the US Citizen who originally petitioned for you this will not impede your eligibility to remove conditions on your two year green card, however, you will need to file for an additional waiver to explain why the marriage dissolved.
If you are married to a US citizen while your I-751 form is pending, you may fall under the same scenario as many conditional green card holders who have a pending I-751 and surprisingly are also eligible to file for citizenship. As a standard eligibility opportunity, a legal resident who is married to a US Citizen and maintains their green card for a minimum of three years, is eligible for citizenship. If you are a motivated conditional green card holder hoping to file for citizenship as soon as you are eligible, you may wonder if you are able to file form N-400 while your I-751 is pending - the quick answer, yes you can! In fact, many conditional green card holders take advantage of this opportunity due to the likelihood of only having to complete one interview with USCIS, rather than two.
Though each interview is handled differently by the assigned USCIS officer, if your interviews are merged you will need to prepare to prove you are fulfilling the naturalization requirements, have studied for the civics testing associated with the naturalization process and are able to prove your genuine marriage with additional evidence (if any). Generally speaking, you will need to prepare for questioning for both your I-751 removal of conditions case along with your spouse and for your naturalization case. Though it may seem as twice the work to prepare for the single interview, the benefit of having your interviews merged is that much of the information and supporting evidence needed to prove the requirements for both cases, overlaps. Meaning, as long as you are well prepared overall (and have studied for the civics test) you should be ready to successfully answer questions for either your I-751 or N-400 case.
After completing the interview and being approved, you may wonder if you will be issued a 10 year green card or a Naturalization certificate. If your interviews are merged you won’t be issued a 10 year green card and instead you will be issued your naturalization certificate the day of your oath ceremony!