When you obtain conditional residence in the United States, the status – and your green card – is only valid for two years. You must take the necessary steps to apply for permanent residency in order to maintain a valid green card, which involves completing and filing USCIS Form I-751, which is a joint petition with your spouse.
However, what happens if your spouse cannot complete and sign the form? Can you still remain in the United States and obtain permanent residency? You should discuss your specific situation with an Illinois immigration lawyer right away. The following are some reasons why your spouse might not be able to complete Form I-751 and some possible solutions.
Many people have disabilities or impairments that prevent them from completing forms as intended. And in some cases, a spouse may experience a medical emergency that significantly reduces their abilities, such as a stroke. Fortunately, the USCIS recognizes this fact and provides accommodations for petitioners with disabilities who cannot complete the process without assistance. You will need to address your spouse’s disability on the form and explain the type of accommodations you need. Your immigration attorney can help you fill out this section of the form in the best manner to obtain the necessary accommodations and keep the process going.
It may also be necessary to provide a statement or other evidence from a licensed doctor to support your spouse’s need for special accommodations, and an experienced immigration lawyer can assist you in gathering these documents.
If your spouse passed away during the first two years of your marriage, it is obvious that they will not be able to complete the form and file the joint petition with you. This is not always the end of the road to permanent residency, however, as you can request a waiver on Form I-751.
Instead of filing a joint petition, you will need to specifically request a waiver for an individual filing. You will need to inform USCIS that your spouse is deceased and provide the death certificate. You will then be responsible for providing evidence of your bona fide marriage on your own without the testimony of your spouse. While this can be more challenging, it is certainly not impossible.
A lot can happen in two years, and a marriage you entered into with best intentions can quickly go wrong or your spouse might engage in battery or extreme cruelty against you. If you are no longer in touch with your spouse, cannot locate them, or have a protective order against them, you will not be able to physically complete the I-751 together.
There are waivers that apply to divorce, as long as the divorce is final and you can still prove that the marriage was bona fide when you entered into it. Divorces can take a long time, and your divorce case might not be final when you need to file your I-751, and you should definitely discuss the best course of action with an immigration attorney in this situation.
There is another waiver for victims of domestic abuse by their spouses, and you will have to show that you were the victim of abuse and you had to leave home due to the abuse, but that your marriage was bona fide when you got married.
The requirement for an in-person interview may be waived for a U.S. citizen spouse who is incarcerated (serving time in jail or prison). However, the spouse applying for adjustment of status will still be required to attend an interview. Waivers for the incarcerated spouse are given on a case-by-case basis, and it is important to present a strong argument for your waiver request.
You can also request an interview waiver if your spouse is in an in-patient rehabilitation program, such as treatment for substance abuse. USCIS officers must use reasonable discretion in determining if an interview waiver will be granted, and may not keep an applicant waiting in limbo for an extended or unreasonable amount of time. For example, failing to contact an applicant who is currently in rehab may be considered an abuse of discretion, and a skilled immigration attorney can help you demonstrate this in order to keep your application moving forward.
Filling out an I-751 without your spouse’s physical signature can be more complicated, though not impossible, and Sverdloff Law Group can help. Immigration law allows for circumstances in which an applicant can be interviewed without their spouse, and a knowledgeable law firm can help you navigate these special issues and reach your immigration goals.
Contact us to speak with an Illinois immigration lawyer today. We also handle cases in Southern Wisconsin.