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Survivor Benefits for Widows and Widowers of U.S. Citizens

Survivor Benefits Deadline of October 28, 2011 Approaches for Some Widows and Widowers of U.S. Citizens

This update concerns an approaching deadline for certain eligible widows and widowers of U.S. citizens to file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (PDF, 12 pages - 230 KB), (I-360 petition), if seeking immigration benefits on the basis of their marriage to the deceased.

Brief Background

On October 28, 2009, Congress amended the law governing immigration benefits for widows and widowers of U.S. citizens. The previous law required a widow(er) to be married to the U.S. citizen spouse for two years before being eligible to seek survivor benefits in the event of the citizen spouse's death.

The new law eliminates this two-year requirement, allowing the surviving spouse to apply for lawful permanent residence even if married for less than two years prior to the spouse's death and regardless of whether the spouse had ever filed Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative (I-130 petition).

Deadlines for Filing

  • Widows and Widowers Without Pending Cases
    Eligible widows and widowers of U.S. citizens who died on or after October 28, 2009, but who were not already the subject of an I-130 petition on October 28, 2009, may file an I-360 petition within two years of the death of the U.S. citizen spouse.
    If the death of the U.S. citizen spouse occurred prior to October 28, 2009, the foreign national widow(er) must file an I-360 petition prior to October 28, 2011.
  • Widows and Widowers With Pending I-130 Petition
    Qualified widows and widowers of U.S. citizens whose deceased spouse previously filed an I-130 petition on their behalf now have their cases automatically converted to an I-360 petition, when USCIS is notified of the petitioner's death.

Eligibility Information

This update is intended to bring attention to deadlines for those who may be affected. USCIS provides information for your review on the various factors involved with eligibility for Widow(er)s and unmarried minor children of deceased U.S. Citizens. Additional guidance is also available in the December 12, 2009 USCIS memo (PDF, 11 pages - 627 KB) that implemented these changes for surviving spouses of U.S. citizens.

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