The Sanction of the Widow


The loss of a spouse is always something very regrettable and painful and in some cases it can leave the survivor in a situation of vulnerability and abandonment. In the United States, the surviving spouses of American citizens, under the law, enjoy protection, if they meet the necessary requirements.

The Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, for its acronym in English), is the entity in charge of processing these cases, which are under the protection of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA, for its acronym in English) that allows widoweds of US citizens have certain considerations.

As of 2009, an amendment to the Law was made possible, which allows widoweds, of American citizens, to remain legally in the United States, even if  their spouse had died during the adjustment of their immigration status or in the petition process, thus having the possibility of completing their immigration process.

Next, we explain a little more about the subject, so that in case you are going through the difficult situation of having lost your spouse, you can have a clearer idea of ​​what you can do to regularize your immigration status.

Can a widowed of a US citizen obtain permanent residence?

Yes, widoweds of US citizens can obtain a permanent resident card as long as they have been legitimately married.

Previously, the law provided that this was only possible if the marriage had lasted for more than 2 years, but in 2009 a change to the law was introduced by the US Congress that eliminates this requirement and the risk of deportation.

What requirements must a widowed of a US citizen meet to be eligible for permanent residence?

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To be eligible to apply for permanent residence, a person who has lost their US spouse must meet the following requirements:

  • Be legally married to the US
  • The marriage must have been made in good faith.
  • Show that the marriage was not made to obtain immigration benefits.
  • Not having criteria of inadmissibility.

What happens if at the time of the death of the US spouse, the widowed is not residing in the United States?

This isn’t an impediment for the widowed to continue with the residency process. Whether you reside inside or outside the United States, in the event that the US spouse dies, doesn’t affect the application.

In the event that the person lives in the United States, in addition to the I-130 or I-360 petition, they can apply for an adjustment of status through Form I-485. It’s important to clarify that in order to make an adjustment of status you cannot have entered the American territory illegally.

If the person lives outside of the US, the application is made through consular process. If the petition is approved, you must go to a US consulate to obtain an immigrant visa, which will allow you to enter the United States as a permanent resident.

What to do if the widower has a petition for a foreign relative in progress?

If the North American spouse dies after filing the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) with the USCIS, the widowed doesn’t have to carry out any other additional procedures; your Form I-130 will automatically be converted to Form I-360: Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant.

In the event that you send before the US spouse has filed the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130), you can petition for yourself or self-petition as an immediate relative, through Form I-360: Petition Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant.

In both cases, their unmarried children, under 21 years of age, will also be included in the petition. It’s important to note that in order to complete the process, the foreign widowed must not be separated or divorced from the spouse and if they has remarried, they are no longer qualifies for this immigration benefit.

Can a widowed work or travel while their application is being processed?

If you have an Adjustment of Status Form I-485 pending, you may be able to request authorization to work legally in the United States, as well as the ability to request advance parole in case you need to leave the country for just cause and can be re-admitted upon return to the United States.

Can a widowed of a US citizen be denied permanent residence?

Yes, if a person doesn’t meet all the general eligibility requirements, they run the risk of having their application denied. In the event that there is a cause of inadmissibility, depending on its nature, there is the possibility of requesting a “waiver” or pardon, so that your request can be reevaluated.


The loss of a loved one is a regrettable and painful event, even more so when you have to face legal procedures.

At Tramites de Inmigracion USA Corp we put at your disposal a team of highly trained lawyers specialized in immigration law, who will help you solve your immigration situation and accompany you in these difficult times for you and your family members.

Do not hesitate to contact us! It’s always good to have a helping hand when we need it the most!

Contact us at 1 (786) 776-7152 or 1 (786) 786-5088.

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