Conditional lawful permanent residents (C-LPRs) are required to file a Form I-751 petition in the 90 days before their status expires. Once the Form I-751 is filed, the individual’s resident status is automatically extended for a period of one year. This one-year extension is proven with the receipt notice for the Form I-751, which indicates that the person’s status has been extended. That receipt notice can be used for employment purposes, and also for travel purposes to demonstrate that the person is still a resident.
So what happens if a year has gone by and USCIS still has not approved your Form I-751?
Unfortunately, this is happening quite a lot these days. We see many Form I-751 petitions that have been waiting for more than a year. That does not indicate a problem with the case – it is simply a matter of adjudications taking a long time. This can lead the conditional resident to panic, since she thinks that her legal status is about to expire.
First off, let’s be clear about one thing: once the Form I-751 is filed the individual remains in residency status until the Form I-751 is approved (or denied). That happens by “operation of law,” which is basically a way of saying that it happens automatically. In other words, even if the date of the one-year extension has come and gone, the person remains in legal status until the Form I-751 is adjudicated. The individual remains legally eligible to work, and legally entitled to re-enter the U.S. as a resident.
Now, of course, you still want to be able to prove that you remain a resident. So how do you do that?
Actually, it’s quite easy. You can set up an appointment at the local USCIS field office with jurisdiction over your case. To get started, just visit the InfoPass system online and schedule a free appointment. Generally, it’s possible to find an appointment slot within a couple of weeks.
Preparing for the appointment is simple. According to recent guidelines released by USCIS, all you need to bring to the appointment is:
- Your Form I-751 receipt notice.
- Your unexpired passport.
- Or – if you do not have an unexpired passport – two passport-style photographs.
The appointment will be a simple, short one. Most of these are conducted informally at a counter – you will generally not be interviewed at length. It is a simple, administrative request. The USCIS officer will then physically stamp an extension either on your I-551 (green) card, or in your passport.
For lengthy cases, you may have to go through this procedure more than once. I believe the record at our firm is three times. It is a hassle to go into the USCIS office, but far better than being without proof of your residency status.