If you received your U.S. residency based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, but because the marriage was relatively new you were given conditional, rather than permanent residence (with a two-year expiration date), then you will need to fill out and submit USCIS Form I-751 in order to convert your conditional residency to permanent residency. (See Marriage-Based Conditional Residents: When and How to Apply for a Permanent Green Card for details on the background of who needs to file and why.)
Assuming you are eligible and ready to file the I-751—and you are still married and your U.S. spouse is cooperating with the process—here is how to fill out the form. (If your spouse will not or cannot sign onto the form, see What If Your U.S. Spouse Won't Sign the Joint Petition I-751? for alternative options.)
If you're living abroad, the two years of conditional residence tick by at the same pace regardless, so you need to pay attention to that upcoming deadline.
Form I-751 is available on the I-751 page of the USCIS website. This article discusses the version of the form dated 12/02/19, supposedly expiring 12/31/2020 (but still in use in late 2023).
You can fill in Form I-751 on your computer, and that's the best way to do it. If you need to first print it out and fill it in by hand, write legibly and use black ink. Signatures must be by hand, in ink—do not type your name or use a stamp where it asks for a signature.
You'll probably come across a question on the form that doesn't apply to you. For example, Part 1, Question 13 says "If the marriage through which you gained conditional residence has ended, provide the date it ended"—but let's say you're still married. In answer boxes like those, type or print N/A (which means "not applicable"). If your answer to a question that requires a number is zero (for example, "How many children do you have" or "How many times have you departed the United States"), type or print None, instead of a zero.
The last page of the form (Part 11) has extra space in which to add information that won't fit in the space provided elsewhere on the form.
If you need even more space, write or type the information on a separate piece of paper and attach it to the end of the form. On every extra sheet, type or print your name and Alien Registration number at the top. Indicate the I-751 page number, part number, and item number to which the information refers. Sign and date each extra page at the bottom.
Part 1, "Information About You, the Conditional Resident"
Most of this section asks for basic biographical information.
Question 9 wants to know if you have a USCIS Online Account Number. This is NOT your Alien Registration number. It's a number you were given if you ever filed an application, petition, or request using the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (called USCIS ELIS). If you don't have one, leave it blank.
When Question 12 asks for your "place" of marriage, it means the city, state (if in the U.S.), and country (if outside the U.S.)—not the type of building or other location.
You can find the answer to Question 14 (when your conditional residence expires) on your green card. It's two years after you initially were approved for or received your permanent residence.
For Question 18, you will probably know if you are in "removal, deportation, or rescission proceedings." You would be in this situation if you had been convicted of a crime, given USCIS reason to believe that your marriage is fraudulent, or done something else to make you deportable from the United States. If you are in immigration court proceedings, you should already have a lawyer, who should help you with this petition as well.
If you check "yes" to Question 19 about whether a fee was "paid to anyone other than an attorney in connection with this petition," you have not necessarily done anything wrong, but you might be questioned about it. If the person you paid helped you prepare the I-751, that person needs to provide information and sign in Part 10.
Question 20 asks about criminal activity. The second part of the question asks whether you have ever committed a crime for which you could have been arrested, but weren't. Don't be too quick to say yes—do you really have the necessary legal knowledge to say that what you did is a crime? Talk to a lawyer who specializes in criminal law where the incident occurred.
Part 2. Biographic Information: Question 1 asks whether you are Hispanic/Latino or not. USCIS defines Hispanic/Latino as "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race."
For Question 2, you can check as many boxes as apply to you. If you are Hispanic/Latino, you might check "no" boxes for Question 2. USCIS defines White as "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa."
Part 3. Basis for Petition: If you are still married and the U.S. spouse is cooperating with the process of applying for your permanent residency, put an "X" in Box 1.a. and do not check any other box in this Part.
Part 4. Information About the U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Spouse
This is meant to be the person who helped the immigrant obtain U.S. conditional residence. Ideally, the address will be the same as the immigrant's, if you are filing jointly and thus need to prove an ongoing, bona fide marriage.
Part 5. Information About Your Children
If you have children, Question 5 asks whether each child is "applying with you." That means did the child get two-year conditional green cards at the same or within 90 days of when you did (based on being your child)? If so, it's important to check the "yes" box—that way, your child won't need to file his or her own I-751.
Part 6. Accommodations for Individuals With Disabilities and/or Impairments
If you are requesting an accommodation at your interview because of a disability or impairment—such as needing to bring along a sign-language interpreter—explain that here.
Part 7, Petitioner's Statement, Contact Information, Acknowledgment of Appointment at USCIS Application Support Center, Certification, and Signature
There's important information for you (the "petitioner"/conditional resident) to read here before signing. Provide accurate contact information in case USCIS needs to follow up. Some of the questions ask about anyone who served as interpreter or otherwise helped you prepare the I-751, and whether the preparer was an attorney or not. Such people will need to fill out their own section of the form.
Make sure you type or write your name in the box in the section containing the ￼Acknowledgement of Appointment at USCIS Application Support Center.
Part 8, Spouse or Individual Listed in Part 4.'s Statement, Contact Information, Acknowledgment of Appointment USCIS Application Support Center, Certification, and Signature
This is where your immigrating spouse signs. This person also has to type or write his or her name in the box in the section containing the ￼Acknowledgement of Appointment at USCIS Application Support Center.
Parts 9 and 10: These are for your interpreter, if you need one, and the person who helped you fill out the I-751, such as your attorney, if you use one.
When you and your spouse are finished preparing the joint petition, make a complete copy for your files. Then send the forms and other required documents to the appropriate USCIS address (most likely a so-called "lockbox") as shown on the I-751 Web page.
If you're living abroad (and haven't thereby abandoned your U.S. residence), you are legally allowed to submit the required USCIS Form I-751 from outside the United States. You would send it to the USCIS facility having jurisdiction over your last U.S. place of residence.
Using a courier service or certified mail with return receipt requested is highly recommended. USCIS receives a huge volume of mail, and if your application gets lost, your proof of mailing will help convince the agency to look for the petition and not penalize you for filing late.
You will absolutely need to be in the United States for your biometrics appointment and to attend an in-person interview, if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asks you to do so. (Luckily, most applicants filing joint I-751s with their spouse, rather than filing solo and asking for a waiver, are not asked by USCIS to attend an interview.)
One possibility, if you know that you'll be returning to the U.S. before too many months go by, is to accompany your I-751 with an explanation of where you are now and a request that final decision-making on your case be postponed until you have returned to the United States. You will need to get the fee receipt from USCIS, however, showing that you filed your I-751, in order to return to the United States after that and be admitted at the border, airport, or other point of entry. You will show your right to return using the receipt and your expired green card.
A related issue is that, upon seeing an overseas address, USCIS is likely to simply assume that you won't be available for biometrics or an interview and put your case on hold. If you want to avoid this, and you continue to have a valid address in the United States and are prepared to return there as soon as appointments for biometrics and an interview are sent to your U.S. address, you might want to list that address on your I-751 application.
Here are the items you will need to assemble for your joint petition to remove the conditions on your residence and become a U.S. permanent resident: