Lately, our Boston immigration law office has been inundated by a flood of people who have had their I-751, petition to remove conditions on permanent residency, denied by USCIS because they were not filed on time. As the I-751 denial letter points out, when the I-751 is denied, all the rights and privileges of permanent residency are terminated. In some cases, the I-751 denial letter is accompanied by a Notice to Appear in Immigration Court, which means that deportation or removal proceedings have been initiated.
If you filed your I-751 late and then got one of these denial letters from USCIS, what should you do? First, take a deep breath. Relax. Don’t panic. And, by all means, don’t pack your bags and leave the U.S.
Before discussing the solution, let me explain the problem. When you are given a conditional green card, you are required to file, together with your spouse, a petition requesting the removal of the conditional basis for your residency within the 90-day period immediately before the second anniversary of the date that you became a permanent resident. If you fail to file the I-751 by this deadline, the immigration regulations say that you will lose your green card status and be placed in deportation proceedings!
USCIS will permit you to file your I-751 late, after the expiration date on your 2-year conditional green card, but only if you include a written explanation of why you failed to file on time and a written request asking USCIS to excuse the late filing of the I-751. If you file your I-751 late and don’t include this written request, USCIS will deny your I-751 on the grounds that it was untimely. This is what happens to many I-751 applicants who include the written explanation and request as required. And even if you include the written explanation and request, USCIS will only excuse a late-filed I-751 for “good cause.”
So, with this background in mind, here are 3 possible remedies to the denial of an I-751 for failure to file in a timely manner.
1. Refile the I-751 but this time include the written request that USCIS excuse the late filing and explaining why you file the I-751 late. Since you must convince USCIS that your failure to file on time was for “good cause,” you should include affidavits, medical records, financial documents–any and all documentation to support your argument.
2. Request that an Immigration Judge review the denial of your I-751. You can’t petition Immigration Court to review the denial of your I-751 directly. You can only do ask Immigration Court for review of the I-751 denial if you are placed in deportation proceedings and required to appear before an Immigration Judge. Immigration Court doesn’t have jurisdiction over all denied I-751s but this option is available in some instances. At a hearing in Immigration Court, the Immigration Service–not you–would have the burden of showing that basis for why it denied your I-751.
3. File a motion to reopen the decision by USCIS to deny your I-751.
Which of these options is best path to keeping your green card depends on the facts of your immigration case. This is a decision best made in consultation with an immigration attorney with substantial experience handling family-based immigration cases and with a strong background in deportation defense.
If you need more help or advice on how to remove the conditions on your green card or if you need representation in Immigration Court, please call me at 617-722-005 and schedule a time to meet with me to discuss your immigration case.