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Moving in Mom: Potential Problems for Conditional Green Card Holders
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Posted On: July 15, 2013

In many cultures, allowing the parent to stay in the spare bedroom for months at a time while visiting the immigrant in the US from their foreign country, is a given. It would be expensive and insulting to stick mom at a hotel or motel. But allowing mom to stay with you and your US citizen spouse can lead to problems that you may not anticipate, especially if you have a conditionalgreen card.  The stereotypical mother-in-law is known to cause a rift between couples and when cultural issues converge upon a US citizen from a different culture and your own, you may find yourself in the middle of supporting your wife or your mother.  I have had many consultations with both men and women who are separated during the conditional period from their US citizen spouse because their spouse couldn’t stand the mother-in-law’s interference, whether real or imaginary.

If your spouse refuses to move back in with you and/or your mother refuses to leave or you refuse to move her out, you may be forced to file for divorce and file for a I-751 conditional green card waiver based on good faith marriage due to the separation because your spouse is not willing to file the joint I-751 petition with you.  The first problem you run into is:
  •  You have to prove the separation was not your fault. If you moved in your mother, took her side against your spouse, etc., then it’s nearly impossible to prove that your spouse moving out was not your fault.
  • You run into is logistics of proving you were in a real marriage, after the fact, and when your spouse is likely angry with you for seemingly choosing your parent over the spouse.  The divorce decree is not the most important evidence for the waiver.

How are you going to document your commingled financial and physical life with your spouse if s/he has cut off your access to those accounts, refuses to speak with you, you can’t notify the bank without her finding out, or all of the assets were in her name or your separate names? 

What if the tables are turned? Even if your US citizen spouse moves in their brother or parent into your home, and you leave, how can you prove it’s her fault, not your’s, when in many cultures, wives are expected to live with their families or must financially support financially-strapped family members who cannot afford to live on their own? Who looks like the bad guy to CIS?

So, what can you do? Prevention is the best medicine.  Be clear with your spouse about how long you are expecting your parent to stay and agree on the timeline. Get this in writing (a casual email agreeing to this – but don’t make it too obvious! – can help you document this later if your spouse back-peddles within days of your parent showing up).  Have a conversation with your parent about interfering and advising your spouse or you against your spouse’s wishes – at least while s/he is visiting.  If you can afford it, have your parent stay at a hotel or stay with another relative and visit your parent instead of having your parent live in your house.  There’s an old adage that new wives are especially nervous about their role as a wife and may be more sensitive to any comments made by your parent.

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Attorney Heather L. Poole practices exclusively in the area of U.S. family-based immigration law and citizenship law. Heather is a nationally-published immigration author, frequent lecturer on immigration issues, and member & officer of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Southern California Chapter. For more information about Heather and the services offered, visit


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