Green card eligibility following a spouse’s death

You might be one of many Louisiana residents who came to the United States from another country of origin. Perhaps you married a U.S. citizen and chose to lay your family roots in this state as you began your life together. Like most spouses, you undoubtedly expected your relationship to last a lifetime, and certainly did not expect your spouse to die after a few years of marriage.

Losing your spouse to an unexpected death is a devastating experience. If you are also worried about immigration issues, such as green card eligibility, such stress may intensify your grief. This is why it is important to seek clarification regarding permanent residency regulations, as well as to know where to reach out for additional support as needed.

You may still petition for a green card as a widow or widower

In certain circumstances, the death of a spouse does not necessarily prohibit you from staying the United States or from applying for permanent residency status. You can file a petition on your own behalf if the circumstances included in the following list apply to your case:

  • You were married to a U.S. citizen when he or she died.
  • You are applying for a green card within two years of his or her death.
  • You have not remarried.
  • There are no issues that would cause you to be inadmissible to the United States.

If your spouse filed form I-130 for you before passing away, you do not have to file a petition for residency. The U.S. government will convert the form to an I-360 form, which is the one you would need to obtain permanent residency status on your own behalf.

You are no longer eligible for a green card as a widow or widower if you remarry

Many people in the United States choose to remarry after a spouse dies. If you choose to do so, you automatically become ineligible for a green card under widow or widower status. If you have children under age 21 who are not married, you can add them to your I-360 form.

If the cause of your spouse’s death was connected to active duty in the U.S. military, there are additional immigration benefits available to you.

Navigating the green card application process

In many cases, the U.S. government might call you to appear at an official interview before fully processing your case. It can take weeks or months to fully process your case.

In the meantime, it is important that you understand how the system works and that you know how to access legal support if a problem arises that you do not feel equipped to handle on your own.