Occasionally, USCIS may issue green cards that erroneously indicate the wrong date of expiration. In fact, in late 2016, a New York Times article reported that an Officer of Inspector General report found that more than 2400 permanent residents who were approved for and should have been granted conditional green cards were mistakenly given permanent ten year green cards without conditions. Immigrants who receive green cards with administrative errors should not take the mistake lightly. For some, there can be serious ramifications, especially in the context of the above scenario.
Under the immigration law, foreign nationals who derive their status through a marriage that is less than two years old are to be accorded conditional green cards. Pursuant to the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986, such applicants must file an I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions during the ninety-day window before the second anniversary of when they were admitted as lawful permanent residents. So, for example, if a couple has been married for less than two years at the time an immigrant visa or adjustment of status case has been approved, the immigrant will receive a two-year green card. On the other hand, if the couple has been married for two or more years at the time the visa (or adjustment of status petition) is approved, the immigrant receives a ten-year card without conditions.
Administrative mistakes occur when a consulate or USCIS officer erroneously-whether by oversight, ignorance, or inadvertence-approves an immigrant for a ten-year green card as opposed to a two-year green card. This error can jeopardize an immigrant’s status because technically, his/her status expires after two years. The administrative mistake, in and of itself, does not preserve the immigrant’s status beyond the two years or estop DHS from holding the individual accountable for not filing a petition to remove. The instructions to the I-751 ominously state: “if the petition is not filed, you will automatically lose your permanent resident status two years from the date on which you were granted conditional status. You will then become removable from the United States.”
In many cases, an individual will often not realize that there is a mistake, especially if he/she is unaware of the nuances of immigration law. In addition, an officer may neglect to advise the immigrant. The mistake may not come to light sometimes until an applicant applies for naturalization, during which time the error is finally discovered. Unfortunately, the officer will not be able to adjudicate the naturalization application, and the applicant will first need to remove the conditions on the green card. This is not as simple as it sounds because USCIS will not ordinarily accept a late I-751 unless it is accompanied by an explanation that establishes good cause for the delay.
For information and advice on how to correct an immigration administrative error, please contact our office. The above is general information only and not to be relied upon as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship, nor should it be relied upon as advice in lieu of consultation with an attorney.