One of the types of individuals that can have eligibility for permanent residency in the U.S. are individuals who are married to a U.S. citizen. But what if their spouse passes away before they got or sought out permanent resident status?
There is a route for receiving U.S. permanent resident status for widows or widowers of U.S. citizens. However, there is a time limit for how long such a widow/widower has for putting in an application for permanent resident status after their spouse's death.
Specifically, among the various requirements a widow/widower of a U.S. citizen has to meet to apply for a green card is that they must submit their petition for permanent residency status within 2 years of their spouse passing away. As a note, if the spouse of the widow/widower had submitted a petition for a green card for the widow/widower before their death, that petition generally will automatically be converted to a qualifying petition of the widower/widow.
This time limit is not the only application timing concern that can arise for widows/widowers of U.S. citizens who desire U.S. permanent resident status. Another such concern can arise if the widow/widower has children. A widow/widower can include their children on their petition for permanent residency as long as the children are under 21 and are unmarried. For the sake of these types of petitions, the child's age at the time the widow/widower's petition was filed is what is used when determining if the child meets the age requirement for inclusion. So, there can be situations in which when a widower/widow files a petition for a green card could impact whether they can include their kids on the petition.
As the above discussion underscores, the timing of the filing of an immigration petition can sometimes be a very impactful thing in immigration matters. Experienced immigration attorneys can give widowers/widows of U.S. citizens or other individuals who desire to pursue a green card explanations of what sorts of timing and other concerns could arise when it comes to the particular application process that applies to them.
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Widow(er)," Accessed April 12, 2016