The U.S. government recognizes that not all immigration stories are the same. Sometimes, immigration only serves to split families up – or can throw a wrench in a family already split by the mourning of a lost loved one. That’s why it’s so critical for those of you who have suffered this kind of loss to understand the Widow(er) Petition (Form I-360). This petition is specifically designed for those who have lost a loved one and still want to commence with the immigration process. But before you proceed, here are some important things to know about form I-360.

Why Would Someone File A Widow(er) Petition?
Losing a loved one – especially one who was being counted on for immigration purposes – can cause all sorts of problems. The Widow(er) Petition helps alleviate these problems by cutting through the process of immigration. That isn’t to say that it serves as a shortcut, but it can indeed solve a number of problems.

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, permanent resident status (green card) can be granted to a widow(er) of a U.S. citizen if the widow(er) was married to their U.S. citizen spouse at the time of death. Previously, the government required that an individual be married to a U.S. citizen for two years before that death, but this requirement was removed several years ago.

The petitioner must also prove that the marriage was entered into in good faith. In other words, you must demonstrate that the marriage was not for the express purposes of acquiring a green card.

This petition can be a great way of moving forward and acquiring a green card after a spouse’s untimely death.  However, because of the complexity involved with widow(er) petitions, it is crucial to make sure the Form I-360 is properly completed and that all necessary supporting documents are submitted.

Eligibility for Widow(er) Petitions
Are you even eligible to file a widow(er) petition? It’s important to know the requirements here, which is why we’ve put together a list of the most common eligibility issues you might face.

 •You must have been married to a U.S. citizen at the time they passed away. As mentioned above, there used to be a two-year advance requirement here, but that has since been removed.

•If your spouse previously filed an Immigrant Visa Petition for you, and that petition is pending at the time of your spouse’s death, that petition will automatically be converted into a widow(er) petition.

•Potential issues arise if you get married again.  You may still be eligible to obtain your green card based on your prior marriage, but your eligibility will depend on several factors, including your date of marriage, the date the petition was filed, the status of the petition, etc.

•Were you legally separated or divorced from your spouse at the time of their passing? This may nullify any potential benefits you might receive.  Informal separations may not necessarily disqualify a person from filing a widow(er) petition, but remember, it is also required that you show that the marriage was entered into in good faith, as discussed below.

•Proving that you were in a legitimate marital relationship with your spouse at the time of their death is vital. You are required to demonstrate that the marriage was made in good faith, and not necessarily just for immigration purposes.

•You should be admissible to the U.S. under normal rules and regulations – for example, this would not necessarily override any other laws or protections that pertain to immigration.

It’s vital to be informed with filing a widow(er) petition, which is why we recommend seeking out a strong legal firm to help guide you through the immigration process.  This is especially true when you are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Deadline to Submit Widow(er) Petition
There is a strict deadline by when a person must file a widow(er) petition. It must be filed within two years of their spouse’s death. There is no exception to this filing deadline.

Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza – Full-Service Immigration Law
The loss of a spouse is a very traumatic and life changing event.  However, it may still be possible to be granted a green card despite the passing of your beloved spouse. Contact the skilled legal team at Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza to help you through this difficult time of your life.

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