USCIS Processing of I-751s in Disarray

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ processing of Forms I-751, Petitions to Remove Conditional Resident Status is in a state of disarray.

Sandra Feist writes for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that USCIS has been adding new procedural delays and hurdles to I-751s, like brick after brick in an “invisible wall” making life difficult for spouses of U.S. citizens.

As background, in 1986, as part of President Reagan’s comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill, Congress enacted the current framework for marriage-based permanent residence to require a 2-year interim green card before these immigrants are granted “unconditional,” permanent residency. At the 2-year mark, these green card holders are required to file I-751s. Notably, they must wait until the 90-day window before the 2-year anniversary of their green card approval and file their I-751 petition before the expiration date on that card.

In the past, here’s how things typically went when filing an I-751 petition with USCIS:

  • 30 days before expiration of the applicant’s conditional permanent residency card – Form I-751 is filed with USCIS.
  • 1 week later – Receipt notice is issued by USCIS confirming that USCIS is processing the case, and extending the applicant’s green card while the I-751 application is pending with USCIS.
  • 4-6 months later – Approval notice arrives in the mail, or an in-person interview is scheduled at a local USCIS field office.

And, here are how things go now:

  • 89 days before expiration of the applicant’s conditional permanent residency card – Applicant files Form I-751 with USCIS, nervously, given this age of uncertainty around immigration petitions.
  • 2 months later, if you’re lucky – Filing fee checks are cashed and receipt notice is issued by USCIS.
  • Up to 2 years later – Approval notice or interview notice arrives in the mail.

Here’s the takeaway, according to Feist: Through administrative delays, USCIS has turned 2-year conditional resident status into 4 years. Besides that delay, the delay in issuance of receipt notices is extremely frustrating. Residents need the receipt notice to prove they are lawfully in the U.S. as conditional residents, so without it they can’t prove eligibility to work in the U.S. or to return to the U.S. from travel abroad or to register for school.

How has USCIS created such havoc?

  • May 23, 2018 – A “processing error” resulted in erroneous fingerprint appointments for these petitioners.
  • June 12, 2018 – USCIS “addressed the problem” of the delays by reissuing receipt notices that extend the validity of the interim proof of conditional residence from 12 to 18 months.
  • June 13, 2018 – USCIS announced “data entry delay” at the California Service Center.
  • September 10, 2018 – USCIS announced a filing location change, dispersing pending cases across all four USCIS Service Center.
  • October 18, 2018 – USCIS announced that it completed receipting and data entry for filings between May 1st and September 9th, meaning that timely petitioners by this point may have been without proof of their green card status between May to October – a full 5 months.
  • November 30, 2018 – USCIS announced that it would interview I-751 petitioners more frequently, which will mean even more extensive delays for typical petitions.

These delays have had a very real impact on the lives U.S. citizens and their family members who were previously issued green cards and who are willing to be checked again by USCIS two years later but want to get on with their lives without endless delays and hassles.


  1. This article is a real contribution. The I-751 practice is now torture thanks to CIS mishandling, which may be intentional. We see so many conditional residents whose cases are pending indefinitely.

    Rev Robert Vitaglione

  2. This is a growing problem. Gary did a wonderful job with me and my husband’s K-1 Visa. I filed to remove conditional status for my husband, and USCIS actually cashed my check within a week but they have sent no receipt. A visit to my congress person (the famous “you like” Joe Wilson) three weeks ago has so far produced no result at all (despite being famous around here for naming post offices and being a big supporter of the current resident of the WH, Joe does have very capable constituent services staff so I am hopeful). My stepdaughter’s payment for her greencard was also processed–but still no receipt. Both filed & paid in November and it is now six months later and I have business travel to China but cannot travel with my family. I am angry at this invisible wall which is clearly and illegally preventing US Citizens from living their lives. A class action suit is needed, Gary.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.