Obtaining U.S. Citizenship During Lengthy USCIS Processing of I-751 Petitions

We are seeing yet another major delay in adjudication by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Processing times of I-751 petitions are now taking as long as four years to complete, up significantly from the previous 8-12 month timeline. Thankfully, there are still pathways for these Green Card holders to obtain extensions on their status and even obtain US citizenship in the meantime.

Extending the Validity of Green Cards

USCIS has now updated language on receipt notices for Form I-751 to extend the validity of a Green Card for individuals with a newly-filed form. I-751 is for Green Card holders who obtained their status through marriage but were married for less than two years at the time of green card issuance. 

The updated language allows anyone with a newly-filed Form I-751 to receive an extension of 48 months on their Green Card. Additionally, any eligible conditional permanent resident with a previous receipt notice for a pending case is able to receive the same extension (if the previous extension receipt was shorter than 48 months). These individuals simply need to provide the previous receipt notice along with their expired Green Card to receive the extension.

This 48-month extension provides the authorization to work and travel for four years, the current average processing time for I-751 petitions. Green Card holders have to submit these petitions 90 days prior to the expiration of their conditional Green Card.

Applying for U.S. Naturalization During Extension

The 48-month extension and processing time almost defeats its own purpose, however, because Green Card holders married to US citizens are able to file for naturalization after three years. This means if you hold a Green Card, are married to a US citizen and receive the extension outlined above, you will be able to apply for citizenship before your I-751 petition is even processed by USCIS.

Eligible filers will be able to file for citizenship one year after filing Form I-751, forcing the government to take action on their petition much sooner than the previous four-year processing window.

At Valvo & Associates, our goal is to ensure our clients have the tools they need to protect their status and eventually reach the goal of receiving U.S. citizenship. If you are facing complex U.S. immigration challenges or unsure how a long processing delay will affect you, your family, and your business, contact our team today.

By Brandon Valvo