My I-751 Conditional Residence Removal Case is Pending for Too Long. How Do I Prove My Lawful Status?

by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
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The Form I-751 is used by conditional residents to remove the conditions on residence and obtain a 10-year lawful permanent resident card. The Form I-751 must be filed during the 90-day “window” before conditional residence expires. It cannot be filed late, but it also cannot be filed early. It takes much longer than 90 days for the new permanent resident card to be issued. Therefore, the conditional resident card will inevitably expire before the applicant can obtain the new card. This does not mean that the applicant’s lawful status expires. Lawful status continues until it is terminated by the government. How can a conditional resident prove his or her continued lawful status during the pendency of the I-751 case?

Once the I-751 is filed, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues a Form I-797 receipt notice, which serves as proof of the conditional resident’s continued status for one year after expiration of the conditional resident card. Until recently, this had been sufficient for foreign nationals to prove their status during the entire pendency of the Form I-751. However, delays relating to the processing of Form I-751 have been an ongoing problem during the past year. At present, the California Service Center processing time report indicates that the average processing time for Form I-751 is approximately 15 months, while the Vermont Service Center processing time report indicates the average processing time for an I-751 Petition is approximately 13 months. In some cases, processing can take even longer, especially if the case is undergoing extended review.

Due to lengthy I-751 processing times, some conditional residents have cases that have been pending longer than the one-year extension of their conditional resident card and now need evidence of their status as evidence of work authorization, for international travel, to renew a state-issued driver’s license and for other reasons.

Conditional residents with a pending Form I-751 who are in need of evidence of their continued lawful resident status should be able to obtain a temporary I-551 stamp in their passport at a local USCIS office. The stamp, which may be obtained by scheduling an InfoPass appointment, is proof of their valid status. If there are no InfoPass appointments available and the conditional resident urgently needs to obtain an I-551 stamp, the local USCIS field office should be able to provide the stamp on an emergency/walk-in basis. Walk-in hours and procedures vary by local field office. If the request is based on an emergency, the emergent need for the stamp must be clearly documented. Additionally, the conditional resident should not request a temporary stamp more than 30 days before the expiration of the conditional permanent resident card extension, as the local office could refuse to issue it that early in advance.

The conditional resident should bring the following items to the local USCIS field office when seeking a temporary I-551 stamp:

  • Valid, unexpired passport;
  • InfoPass appointment notice (if applicable);
  • Form I-751 receipt notice;
  • Application Support Center (Biometrics) Appointment Notice, which bears the correct “receipt number” for purposes of verifying the pendency of the Form I-751;
  • Expired conditional resident card;
  • Proof of residence within the jurisdiction of the USCIS office; and
  • Proof of emergency (if relevant).
  • If the individual does not have a valid passport, he or she may obtain an I-551 stamp on an I-94 card that will be issued by the field office.  In this situation, the individual should also bring two passport photographs, which will be affixed to the card.

USCIS will typically issue the I-551 stamp with a validity period up to a maximum of 12 months. However, it has been reported that some USCIS local offices will only extend in 3 or 6 month increments. If the conditional resident’s passport expires prior to that time, the stamp will likely reflect the expiration date of the passport.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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