I-751 Removal of Condition, Waiver of Joint Filing for Abuse or Cruel Treatment
Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.
If an individual received a green card based on their marriage to a U.S. citizen which occurred less than 2 years after their marriage, they will receive a “conditional” green card that is only valid for two years. Within 90 days of the two-year expiration, the green card holder and their spouse would jointly file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. If the conditions on their green card are not removed, then the green card and their status and right to stay in the U.S. will terminate at the end of two years. There are a few circumstances where a spouse may not have to jointly file Form I-751, such as if they have been abused or treated cruelly by their U.S. citizen spouse and it’s no longer safe or feasible for joint filing. Therefore, a waiver of joint filing must be requested based on that abuse and cruel treatment.
When applying for a waiver of the joint filing requirement based on abuse or cruel treatment the applicant must provide USCIS with evidence showing that they there were abused or treated cruelly by their U.S. citizen spouse. USCIS defines battery as physical violence committed against a conditional permanent resident by their spouse. Some examples of physical abuse include punching, slapping, forced sex, and any other infliction of bodily harm. Extreme cruelty is defined as nonviolent abuse that a U.S. spouse purposely caused on the conditional permanent resident in order to control or embarrass them. Some examples of extreme cruelty are:
- Threatening to report the conditional permanent resident to USCIS or any other government agency;
- Threatening to refuse to jointly file Form I-751 with the conditional permanent resident;
- Threatening to divorce the conditional permanent resident, especially if it is not accepted in their culture or religion;
- Withholding money or food from the conditional permanent resident as punishment;
- Name calling and harsh insults, in public or private; or
- Not allowing the conditional permanent resident to contact their family or friends.
The conditional permanent resident will need to provide USCIS with evidence showing specific instances of their spouse’s abusive actions and how these actions hurt or controlled their life. If the conditional permanent resident was physically abused, official reports from police and medical personnel would be important to provide USCIS with.
After the whole I-751 packet is filed, the conditional permanent resident will receive a receipt notice. The conditional permanent resident is allowed to continue to live and work in the U.S. while their case is being processed. If USCIS needs more evidence to show abuse and/or cruel treatment they will send a request for evidence, which must be timely answered. Once USCIS reviews the whole I-751 packet it will determine if the conditional permanent resident qualifies for a waiver of joint filing and send a letter to the applicant with their decision or, schedule them for an interview.
In these circumstances, the proof is not related to a bona fide marriage at all, the proof is related to the abuse and extreme cruelty. If you or someone you know is dealing with an Abusive relationship whereby an I-751 petition to remove conditions may be necessary please do contact an experienced Immigration Professional.