While a green card is proof of permanent residency, not all green cards are permanent – or without conditions. Conditional green cards are in fact the type of green cards offered to applicants who marry a US citizen. Conditional green cards are designed to provide conditional permanent residency in order to help discourage sham or fake weddings undertaken only to get a green card the easy way. Conditional permanent residency is also give to investors who get a green card by investing in the US. Conditional green cards last two years and after this time, if the applicant has maintained residency in the US, the applicant can apply to get a regular green card.
In a few unusual cases, an individual may not need to get a conditional green card. For example, if a US citizen marries a non-citizen and the couple only apply to adjust status after two years, usually a regular 10-year green card will be issued rather than the conditional green card. However, it is unusual for couples to wait this long before seeking to adjust status, because in many cases, both partners want to be able to work in the US and a conditional green card allows the non-US citizen to do this.
Holders of a conditional green card may be given a resident card with an I-551 stamp on it, indicating when the conditional green card will expire – two years from the date of issue. While someone has a conditional green card, he or she is considered a conditional resident. During the two year period while the conditional green card is current, the applicant must maintain residence in the US and obey immigration laws. Once the conditional green card is close to expiry, it is important for the applicant to apply for a Permanent Green Card. If he or she fails to do so, the conditional green card will expire, making him or her subject to deportation.
About 90 days before the expiry date on a conditional green card, the applicant is responsible for filing USCIS form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence) or USCIS form I-829 (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions). Complete form I-751 if you received your conditional green card through marriage and file USCIS form I-829 if you secured your conditional green card through investment. If USCIS approves your petition, the conditions on your green card will be removed and you will be issued a Permanent Green Card (which lasts for ten years before it has to be renewed).