USCIS has traditionally taken a long time to process the I-751 petitions to remove the conditions on a marriage-based green card — we typically tell clients it will take around a year if everything goes as expected. However, in this current presidential administration, almost everything immigration-related is taking longer, and this includes I-751 processing. When a person files the I-751 petition, USCIS issues a receipt notice, which the petitioner can use to work and travel for up to one year. When processing times go beyond that time period, however, the petitioner must go to USCIS to have their passport stamped with a temporary I-551 stamp, so that they can continue to work and travel while the petition is in process with USCIS. It is increasingly difficult to obtain an InfoPass appointment to have this stamping done, and is inconvenient, of course, for petitioners.
To address this problem, USCIS announced in June that they are extending the validity of the I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, receipt notices. The I-797s (receipt notices) used to extend the applicant’s work and travel authorization for one year (12 months) while the petition was pending with USCIS. In light of recent processing times increasing heavily over the past year, USCIS has now extended the validity of the receipt notices for 18 months.
Applicants who filed a I-751 petition after June 11 will automatically receive the new receipt notices valid for 18 months. For eligible conditional permanent residents whose I-751 petitions are still pending as of June 11, USCIS will issue the new extended receipt notices, so keep an eye on your mailbox.
What does this mean for you?
- The extended validity of the I-797s now means you have more time before you need to worry about the receipt notice (and your work & travel authorization) expiring and when to orchestrate an InfoPass appointment to get the I-551 stamp in your passport to continue your work and travel authorization while the petition pends. That’s great news, especially if the nearest USCIS field office is hours away and you end up not needing a temporary stamp due to the extended validity period of the receipt!
- While you now have more time for work and travel authorization, the bad news is the processing your petition will take much longer than previously anticipated. Anyone who hates waiting knows that will be tough. The good news is that if you want to file for US citizenship in the future based on marriage to a US citizen, your time as a conditional resident counts towards the 3 year requirement before you can file for naturalization. In many instances, our clients chose to actually file for naturalization even while the I-751 is still pending. The I-751 must still be adjudicated before the N-400 is processed, but usually filing the N-400 triggers the (faster) adjudication of the I-751.
Also keep in mind that USCIS is currently taking longer to issue the I-751 receipt notices than they have before. This can present a challenge if you need it to work or travel after your green card has expired. Keep in mind that in most (but not all) cases you must file the I-751 within the 90 day window before your conditional residence expires. However, in light of this increased processing time just for receipt notices, it would be wise to file the petition as soon as you can (within the applicable timeframes) to reduce the chance of your not receiving it before your green card expires.
We know it’s hard waiting for the government to process your petition and make a decision as soon as they can, but the newly extended I-751 receipt notices are a step in the right direction and save you the hassle of setting up an InfoPass appointment to continue your work and travel authorization after only 12 months. We appreciate that USCIS recognizes their processing times have increased and they’ve taken the step to ensure your ability to work, make a living, and travel are not interrupted so soon.
Do you need assistance with an I-751 filing or other family-based or employment-based immigration matter? Please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 804-396-3412. Please note that we are not able to answer questions via email, but we would be happy to communicate via email to set a time for a paid consultation if we are able to assist with your particular type of case. We look forward to hearing from you!