Most folks who immigrate to the U.S. apply for permanent residency. However, there are additional conditions to achieve permanent status in the case of entrepreneurs and newly-married spouses of U.S. citizens. For these categories of petitioners, the government grants what is colloquially known as “temporary green cards” but is more accurately conditional residence.
A temporary green card, also known as conditional residence, is similar to a regular green card visa that allows a person to work and live in the United States but comes with strict stipulations. Unlike a regular green card, a temporary card expires within two years of issue. After the two-year mark, the temporary green card holder is expected to “remove the conditions” and update their status to a permanent resident with a ten-year green card.
To be eligible for permanent status, the petitioner must file within the 90-day period before their conditional green card expires. Another distinction between a regular green card and a conditional one is that the temporary card is non-renewable, so once it expires, conditional status is revoked. The reason behind the two-year conditions is to ensure that people are not circumventing the U.S.’s immigration laws by entering into fraudulent marriages.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Apply for a Conditional Green Card?
No, you are not required to retain representation in order to apply for a conditional green card. However, a lawyer who understands immigration laws and the different procedures can be a huge help. Your attorney can guide you through the appropriate paperwork and where to send your documents. Part of the immigration process requires petitioners to attend interviews and appointments in their home country before receiving approval to enter the U.S. These interviews can be challenging to navigate on your own. Legal counsel can prepare you for the types of questions and evidence you’ll be expected to produce, especially if you’re applying through a marriage visa.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Conditional Green Card?
The timeline to be issued a conditional green card will depend on the type of temporary visa you’re applying for and the complexity of your case. If you’re applying for a marriage visa, whether your spouse lives in the United States will affect the timeline. Bureaucratic delays and miscommunication are also common in the immigration system, which can impact the processing time. On average, it can take anywhere from 10-38 months to receive a temporary green card, so getting your application started as soon as possible is paramount. The immigration process is rife with contradictory information and frustrating obstacles, which is another reason to have competent legal representation on your side.
Do I Need an Immigration Attorney for a Conditional Green Card?
Almost any error in your petition will result in a denial, so it’s crucial to attain legal representation to ensure your best chance at a green card. But it’s not just potential applicants that need to consider hiring legal counsel. Employers and business owners looking to hire foreign-born workers should reach out to a lawyer to walk them through the process of sponsoring a worker for a green card. Language barriers, a multitude of immigration options, and bureaucratic delays are all likely obstacles an attorney can guide you through, saving you time and frustration.
The immigration process is tough to navigate, no matter what language(s) you speak. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is looking for any reason to deny folks a green card, and issues of translation are a common reason for blocking an otherwise viable petition. If you have limited proficiency in English or just want assistance translating complex legal jargon and forms, then a green card attorney is essential.
Narrow down Immigration options
Depending on your unique circumstances, you may qualify for multiple visas or types of green cards, but it's tough to know which is the best or fastest option. For example, an engaged person has two options for entering the U.S. They could get married in their home country and then enter the U.S. using an immigrant visa, which has the immediate right to a green card. Or they could get a K-1 fiancé visa, which permits entry in order to get married within a 90-day timeframe and the option to later apply for a green card through a process called an adjustment of status. An immigration attorney understands the varied fees, procedures, and processing times and can help decide which option is most advantageous and within your budget.
One of the more common circumstances many potential immigrants face when trying to get a U.S. visa is the argument by USCIS (or consulate) that they are ineligible based on admission qualifications. This claim is called Inadmissibility. There are many reasons a person may be deemed inadmissible, including having committed a crime, previously lying to the U.S. government, or having financial instability that puts you at risk of being labeled a public charge. A public charge is someone the government considers likely to depend on public benefits to meet basic needs. There’s no waiver if you’re found inadmissible based on income reasons. However, an attorney can assist you in overcoming an inadmissible determination and preparing a written argument to grant your entry.
Precarious deportation status
If you’ve currently or previously been in immigration court deportation (removal) proceedings, an attorney is non-negotiable to determine how the outcome will affect your application. Folks on the cusp of being deported won’t be successful using the same application as people who are not in deportation proceedings.
Even the simplest U.S. immigration application involves filling out many forms and gathering evidence to prove your immigration eligibility. Each application varies and requires following different detailed instructions, which is overwhelming for many prospective immigrants. Make a small mistake, and the application can be returned, delayed, or even rejected. Immigration attorneys are well-versed in the necessary paperwork, and many have streamlined systems. Green card lawyers have computer programs that input the required information and quickly produce the requisite forms. Having an attorney in your corner is well worth the cost for peace of mind and reducing your chances of being rejected.
Immigration law is notoriously convoluted, and it's overseen by a government bureaucracy that requires less regulation and review than it should. In addition, the U.S. government is infamous for time delays and mixing up paperwork. Often, the government will request unexpected paperwork, and having an immigration lawyer on your side is in your best interest in this very common circumstance to get your petition back on track.
Legal Resources for Immigrants
Before you contact an immigration attorney, educate yourself on the resources at your disposal for potential immigrants. Many organizations seek to simplify the immigration process and assist in citizenship—many on a reduced-fee or no-fee level. If finances are a barrier to becoming a U.S. citizen, consider getting in touch with one of the organizations below dedicated to helping immigrants find effective and conscientious legal representation.
Immigration Process Guide
If you have questions about the immigration process, like which forms to file and how much it’ll cost—ImmigrationHelp.org streamlines the application process for many aspiring immigrants. Their team of immigration legal experts designed a series of eligibility and form prep tools that simplify the visa process and are entirely free to use. You can even check out current USCIS processing times, and users can even pay for 1-on-1 consultations with their legal team to go over strategy and review documents.
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
For more than forty years, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) has educated and assisted attorneys and legal advocates in their work to help immigrants and their families. You can find an immigration preparedness toolkit on their website, available in English and Español. This free toolkit offers in-depth and easily accessible information that outlines the basics of a variety of immigration topics. This resource also features additional links to helpful reference documents, fact sheets, and tools users can employ to create their own personalized plans.
National Association of the Deaf
Many public and private attorneys are not well-versed in ADA requirements and accommodations for folks who are deaf or hard of hearing. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is an organization dedicated to bridging this gap by providing equal access to legal services for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The NAD works towards enhancing access to legal services and required accommodations, which include skilled interpreters, CART, and assistive listening devices. The NAD can aid local attorneys in accessing their state communications access fund (CAF), which covers the cost of communication access services.
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