These are the basic steps required to file JOINTLY as a married couple. These steps should be followed as a guideline and not as specific requirements for any given case. Every case is unique and this does not address that uniqueness.
A permanent resident is given the privilege of living and working in the United States permanently. A person's permanent residence status will be conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than two years old on the day they were given permanent residence. A person is also given conditional resident status on the day they are lawfully admitted to the United States on an immigrant visa (having been married less than two years and entering on a CR-1 Visa). A person's permanent resident status is conditional, because they must prove that they did not get married to evade the immigration laws of the United States.
When to File:
If you are filing jointly, the I-751 form must be filed within the 90 days just preceding the expiration date on your permanent residence card. This is the date that your conditional residence expires. Note that, despite the fact that you may see word "anniversary" used in a confusing way regarding the filing date for removal of conditions, your wedding date is completely irrelevant to determining the window of time during which you may file for removal of conditions. If you and your spouse are outside the United States on orders of the U.S. Government during the period in which the petition must be filed, you may file it within 90 days of your return to the United States. See the USCIS webpage for more specific instructions, and search the forum for stories of several people who have done this successfully.
It is very important to file the I-751 within the correct window of time, and be sure not to file it before the 90-day window. If you file it too early, they will send your application back. You may file at any time during the 90 day window, but it is prudent to file fairly early in the window.
If you fail to properly file the Form I-751 (Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence) within the 90-day period before your second anniversary as a conditional resident, your conditional resident status will automatically be terminated and the USCIS will order removal proceedings against you. You will receive a notice from the USCIS telling you that you have failed to remove the conditions, and you will also receive a Notice to Appear at a hearing. At the hearing you may review and rebut the evidence against you. You are responsible for proving that you complied with the requirements (the USCIS is not responsible for proving that you did not comply with the requirements).
The USCIS may send a reminder to file this petition on time, however you should not rely on this reminder -- postal delivery is never without faults. Not receiving the letter is not an excuse for filing late.
The USCIS provides additional information here.
Download the Following Forms:
The above form can be filled out on your computer and printed. Make sure you sign and date them as required. Anything you cannot fit by typing, you can handwrite (very neatly) in black ink in the blank instead. You should always verify the current forms at www.uscis.gov.
Assembling the I-751 Package: Checklist
Forms and Documents (follow these assembly instructions. All supporting documents must be in English or be translated as noted here.):
Evidence of Your Bona fide Marital Relationship
A crucial part of filing this form is that you present evidence of your bona fide marital relationship, as your removal of conditions is based upon your marriage. There are a variety of documentations that you may submit. While the USCIS instructions for the I-751 say that evidence should cover the entire period from your marriage up to the present date, there is no need to repeat evidence that you already submitted to them earlier. Many couples submit no evidence whatsoever covering the period before their first interview. In any case, it's helpful to concentrate on the evidence that has developed since they last interviewed you.
You do not have to have all of the types listed below as proof of the relationship; supply as many as you like. If you are short on the documents that have both of your names listed on them you MAY include affidavits from people who know you as a couple (see examples), confirming your marital relationship -- note that they are not required. If you have very little documentary evidence, you may find affidavits helpful. Additionally, you will need to submit a copy of the green card of the person who is applying for removal of conditions. IF you have K-2 children who will also be filing for removal of conditions at the same time, you may include them and use only one form and only one fee for the form.
On the "don't panic" front -- ultimately the burden of proof is on the CIS to show a fraudulent marriage. Even if CIS denies, the application can be renewed in front of an Immigration Judge (IJ) in Removal Proceedings -- and the IJ's tend to APPROVE those cases.
ONLY SEND COPIES of evidence. The copies should be clear and all marks pertaining to filings, registration and/or government issuance should be clearly shown.
Examples of documents showing a bona fide relationship (Submit COPIES only. Do not send originals):
Mailing the Packet & What to do While You Wait
The I-751 form and accompanying documents are mailed to either the USCIS California or Vermont Service Centers (click here to see the filing location for your state) depending on your state of residence. (Use certified mail or priority mail with delivery confirmation, and write "Attention: I-751 petition to remove conditions of status" on the envelope under the address.) You will receive a notice of receipt for the form stating that "Your alien card is extended one year - employment and travel authorized". Keep the receipt with your green card. If by some chance you are not approved within a year you will want to make an InfoPass appointment to go to your Local Office to request an I-551 stamp in your passport. This does happen as it sometimes it takes over a year to be approved. After your NOA extension expires, this is your only evidence of legal status which you are required to have, by law. This happens occasionally, that a case takes over a year, but it's rare. Local Offices will not give an I-551 stamp if you have another type of evidence of status (ie, expired Green Card + extension letter).
You may or may not be called for an interview after you submit this form. Procedures have been in flux for the past year or so regarding biometrics collections (fingerprints, and photo) and you may get a letter sending you to your DO or ASC for this service--this is not an interview. Simply follow the instructions that YOU receive from USCIS and don't worry too much about other people's situations. Yours is the one that counts for you. If you are selected for an interview, it will be at your local USCIS office, not at the service center. Most typically, you have already had a biometrics appointment before your notice of approval, and your new Green Card will be mailed to you. However, you should follow all directions received from USCIS. I-751 cases are generally completed in 6-12 months, currently. Once you receive the 10-year green card, it should be renewed every 10 years, if you do not become a U.S. citizen in the interim. Instructions for renewing your card are here: How Do I Renew My Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)?
Note on Case #'s: The case number on the NOA1 is not linked to the USCIS case update site - you have to wait for the case number that comes with the biometrics letter.