Unlike aliens accorded permanent residence without conditions, those who have been granted conditional two year green cards must file together with their spouses for the permanent "10 year green card." (This term itself is a misnomer, as the status is indefinite; however, the card itself will expire in 10 years.) Despite its importance, the I-751 application process can appear deceptively simple. However, it would be a mistake to underestimate or downplay how critical this application is in a permanent resident's life here. Denial of the application will, in most cases, automatically lead to the individual being placed into removal proceedings. Even in cases where there is no question that the marriage is a genuine one, an alien's status may be jeopardized by failing to file the form correctly. Besides procedural errors, such as mailing to the wrong address, not enclosing the proper filing fee, or having only the immigrant sign the application, perhaps the biggest mistake that we have seen by people make doing these cases by themselves is failing to follow the instructions. The instructions are nearly as important as the form itself, given that USCIS explicitly advises the applicant what is expected. This is also reflected by the sheer length of pages: the actual application is 11 pages; the instructions are 10.
Many pro-se applicants fill out and file the application without attaching any documentary proof, the absence of which can be critical in determining whether the case is approved without incident or whether a Request for Evidence or Interview may be necessary. For Joint Requests, it is crucial for the applicant to compile and attach documentation that establishes the bona-fide nature of the marital relationship. USCIS will be evaluating the submission to determine whether the couple entered into the marriage for the right reasons, and not to "circumvent" the immigration laws. Typical proofs include but are certainly not limited to:
· Birth Certificates of children born during the time of marriage;
· Lease or mortgage contracts;
· Joint checking/savings accounts;
· Insurance policies;
· Joint tax returns;
· Joint utility bills;
· Affidavits from at least two individuals who know the couple and who can attest that the couple have a genuine marriage relationship.
If documentation is not attached with the actual form, USCIS may subsequently issue a Request for Evidence, requesting the above. This may result in the case being delayed, as the case may not be adjudicated unless and until a response is received. If the response is not satisfactory, USCIS may schedule the couple for an interview, or worse, possibly deny the case for insufficient proof.
The above is general information/opinion only and does not constitute legal advice. It is not intended to substitute for legal counsel nor does it create an attorney client relationship.