Help for Widows and Widowers of U.S. Citizens Seeking to Remain in the U.S.

Published: June 11, 2009

The way current legislation reads, widows and widowers of U.S. citizens who are married less than two years at the time their U.S. citizen spouse passes away are not eligible for U.S. permanent residence. That is, foreign nationals living in the U.S. and awaiting processing of their applications for permanent residence are left with no legal right to stay if their spouse dies before the marriage reaches its second anniversary. As one could imagine, such a rule has yielded numerous stories of family hardship and injustice, with foreign nationals and their children being forced to depart the U.S. and break substantial ties with immediate and extended U.S. family that have developed as a result of the marriage.

To ease the pain of these widowed foreign nationals and their families, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has in recent days established a variety of procedures for impacted individuals to live and work in the U.S. legally while a long term legislative fix is under way.

As declared by Secretary Napolitano, “Smart immigration policy balances strong enforcement practices with common sense, practical solutions to complicated issues. Granting “deferred action” to the widows and widowers of U.S. citizens who otherwise would have been denied the right to remain in the United States allows these individuals and their children an opportunity to stay in the country that has become their home while their legal status is resolved.”

Copyright © 2009, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois