In the majority of cases, green cards are valid for 10 years before you must renew the document. However, there are some specific instances where you or a loved one may have what the U.S. government calls “conditional permanent residency.”

Conditional permanent residents have the same rights as a regular permanent resident. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, persons who hold conditional permanent residence must petition to remove the conditions.

Why does conditional permanent residency exist? 

The majority of conditional permanent residents in the United States are spouses of U.S. citizens. If you have the rights to live in the U.S. through marriage, your first green card will be temporary. You will be eligible for permanent residency after the first two years.

The U.S. government wants to make sure that your marriage to a U.S. citizen is legitimate and not a marriage scam. While you hold conditional permanent residency, you will be able to work and travel in the same manner as a permanent green card holder.  

What happens if I get divorced? 

It is still possible to obtain a permanent green card if you and your U.S. citizen spouse divorce while you have conditional permanent residency. No matter the status of your marriage, you will need to fill out Form I-751.

If you are still married to your spouse you will fill out Form I-751 with them. If you divorce or separate from your U.S. spouse, you can petition to file out the form alone. Particularly if you separate from your U.S. spouse due to him or her cheating or abandoning you, it is possible to obtain permanent residency regardless.