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What happens if  your U.S. citizen Spouse refuses to Sign your Green Card Petition needed to make it permanent?

After you get your Green Card by Marriage to a U.S. Citizen – what happens next?

If you have been married for less than two years at the time you file for a marriage based Green Card, you will be issued what is called a conditional Green Card. This means that you will have permanent residence status (Green Card) but with an expiration date on the card.

This Green Card is conditional pending the USCIS’s determination that you have a legitimate marriage. There is a window, 21 months after the Green Card is issued, when BOTH spouses must sign a petition requesting that the conditions on the Green Card be removed.

At that point you would provide evidence that your marriage was valid at the time of marriage, not just to obtain a Green Card, and that you are still married. Then the immigration office may convert the conditional to a more permanent Green Card, also known as a Permanent Residence Card.

But, what happens when your U.S. Citizen spouse refuses to sign the petition?

This creates a big problem for the non U.S. Citizen spouse and is a very serious matter. You should really make all possible attempts to have the Citizen spouse sign the petition. This may give the Citizen spouse a feeling of power over the immigrant spouse. After all, if he or she does not sign a petition, then you have a big problem.

There are solutions, which can be tricky and are not guaranteed. Everything really depends upon your particular facts. Some people are already divorced, some are still legally married and may be having relationship difficulties. Sometimes the parties have been separated or are considering getting a divorce. Each person’s facts will be different, so there is no set way to proceed on such a case without your individual facts.

If a spouse has been physical or mentally abusive, it will be important to be able to document this. You may consider seeing a counselor, which would be an appropriate thing to do and may also help you along during a difficult time.

It is also important to collect and save as much documentation as you can. Especially proof that you marriage is valid. You and your spouse may know that you have a valid marriage, but the immigration office only knows what it can see in your file.

If you are unable to obtain your husband or wife’s signature for any reason, you may be able to apply for waiver. If approved, this allows you to file to have your Green Card converted without your spouse’s signature. This is a big job requiring a lot of work and documentation.

Again, this is a serious matter and it is unlikely that you should try to do this without help from an Immigration Attorney. Immigration law is not an area where it is good to do self-help. The consequences are too high. You have a 90 day time frame to get your Green Card converted. You don’t want to risk losing your Green Card.