US Spouse Visa Renewal: Maintaining Lawful Status
If you are a green card holder married to a US citizen, this will entitle you to live and work in the USA on an indefinite basis. That said, even as a lawful permanent resident, you will still be required to renew your Green Card at certain intervals.
The following US spouse visa renewal guide looks at how to extend your stay in the United States, as well as how to qualify for US citizenship in the event that you are considering taking this more permanent step.
Your current immigration status
Having been granted a CR1 green card, you and your spouse must subsequently apply together to USCIS to remove the conditional status using Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
This must be done within 90 days before the 2-year anniversary of your entry into the United States on your immigrant visa as a conditional resident. This will be the date of expiration on your green card.
Broadly speaking, you will be eligible to remove your conditions on permanent residence in the following circumstances:
- You remain married to the same US citizen after 2 years
- You have been widowed but entered into your marriage in ‘good faith’
- You entered into a marriage in good faith, but the marriage ended through divorce or annulment
- You entered into a marriage in good faith, but either you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by your US spouse.
Where you are no longer married to your US spouse or you have been battered or abused by them, you may request a waiver of the joint filing requirement. However, in these circumstances you will need to provide evidence that removal from the United States would cause you extreme hardship.
Failing to apply to remove the conditions within the correct timescales risks losing your conditional resident status and potentially being deported from the USA.
The fee for filing Form I-751 is $595, together with a biometric service fee of $85, making a total of $680.
What is the process to renew an IR1 green card?
If you are a lawful permanent resident with a Form I-1551 green card that is valid for 10 years, you should seek to renew your card where it is due to expire within a period of 6 months.
You can renew your IR1 green card by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. You can also use this form where your green card has been lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed.
Whilst there are no strict eligibility criteria for renewing a green card, you do run the risk of your application being denied, for example, where you have been convicted of a criminal offence since obtaining lawful permanent resident status. Your application may also be denied if you are found to conceal such fact, or are otherwise dishonest when submitting your application.
The current filing fee for Form I-90 is $455. In most cases, you must also pay an $85 biometric processing fee, totalling $540.
What if I don’t yet have a green card?
As the spouse of a US citizen there are some circumstances in which you may not yet have been granted a green card, for example, where you have travelled to the United States under a K3 non-immigrant visa with a view to applying to adjust your status to become a lawful permanent resident once you are in the USA.
The K3 marriage visa only permits a time-limited stay in the United States. That said, it is designed to shorten the physical separation between you and your US spouse by giving you the option to obtain a non-immigrant visa overseas and enter the United States to await approval of your immigrant visa petition.
In most cases, the K3 visa will not prove necessary as USCIS will generally approve the CR1 immigrant visa petition as quickly as a K3 visa. However, where approval of your petition is still pending by USCIS, you will be granted a K3 visa for a period of 2 years during which time will need to apply for a green card.
Once your petition has been approved, you can apply for your green card to become a lawful permanent resident by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
The filing fee here is typically $1140, plus a biometric services fee of $85, totalling $1225.
When can I apply for US citizenship?
Having been granted a green card, and having satisfied the residence requirements (set out below), you can apply for US citizenship through what’s known as naturalization. This is the process by which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a US citizen.
Given the rising cost for renewal of a green card every 10 years, you may well want to consider taking this more permanent step instead. Moreover, the grant of citizenship also means that you can share equally in the rights and privileges of other US citizens, including but not limited to the right to vote, applying for a US passport and helping to bring family members to live with you in the USA.
As the spouse of a US citizen you can apply for naturalization once you have held your green card for a period of 3 years. However, to satisfy the residence requirements you must have spent the majority of that period actually living in marital union with your US spouse in the United States.
Typically, you will also need to meet various other requirements to be eligible to apply for US citizenship, namely:
- You must be of good moral character
- You must be able to read, write and speak English
- You must be able to demonstrate a basic understanding of the fundamentals of US history and government, otherwise known as civics.
In some circumstances you may qualify for an exemption from the English and civics requirements, for example, where you have a medical disability.
How do I apply for US citizenship?
To apply for US citizenship you will need to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, after which you will be invited for an interview. The filing fee here is $640, together with a $85 biometric fee where applicable.
You will be required to take the English and civics test during the course of your interview, unless you qualify for an exemption or waiver. The English test has three components, namely reading, writing and speaking, whilst the civics test will cover important US history and government topics.
If your application for citizenship is successful you will be asked to formally acknowledge your willingness and ability to take an oath of allegiance by way of signature. You will subsequently be required to take that oath in a public ceremony, at which stage you will officially become a US citizen.