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Seeking green card status as a widow/widower of a U.S. citizen

There is much debate in the corridors of power in Washington these days about the legal status of people who live in this country but weren't born here. Therefore, it's only natural that many immigrants as well as those who seek to live in this country are nervous and confused.

One group that isn't widely discussed is people who are widows and widowers of U.S. citizens. Under the law, anyone who was legally married to a U.S. citizen when he or she died can obtain a green card.

Of course, as is the case with all people from other countries who marry U.S. citizens, these widows and widowers need to provide evidence that they married their spouse in good faith and not just to be able to live here. Further, they must show that they were still legally married at the time of their spouse's death. They may not be remarried since then.

The form that needs to be completed depends on the applicant's status and whether he or she is currently living in the U.S. For example, if your spouse had already filed a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130), that will be changed to a Form I-360 for you. Any children that you have who are under 21 will be included on that form.

If your spouse hadn't filed an I-130, you can file the I-360 yourself to seek status as an "immediate relative. This needs to be done within two years of your spouse's death. Widows and widowers of U.S. military members who died in combat also need to file this form. They are entitled to special immigration benefits.

As with all matters involving immigration status, the paperwork and requirements can be daunting. It's wise to seek the guidance of an experienced Maryland immigration attorney who can explain the steps and requirements and help the process go more smoothly for you.

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Widow(er)," accessed Jan. 31, 2018

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