Survivor Benefits: Immigration cases affected by death
I was reflecting upon the recent passing of my father and was grateful that along with the immense grief we suffered, we did not have to deal with immigration issues. As an immigrant family, we were lucky that upon his passing, there were no outstanding petitions and no immigration proceedings pending. I am, however, acutely aware that others have to experience both the grief of death as well as the immigration consequences it can bring. Here are four examples of immigration cases affected by death:
1. Widows of USA citizens: Widows (ers) of a US citizen can still seek to adjust their status based on their marriage. For those who have a marriage petition (I-130) pending or approved before the death of the citizen, their petition is automatically converted to a widow petition. Those that do not have a petition pending upon the death of their spouse can file a widow self petition (I-360). The widow petition process does not guarantee that status will be granted, as applicants must nevertheless be found to be admissible by immigration authorities. Further, re-marriage impedes the widow petition and adjustment process. Protection is also offered to surviving immediate relatives of abusive citizens and permanent residents under the Violence Against Women Act.
2. Surviving beneficiaries of family petitions: When a petitioning citizen or resident dies AFTER having filed a relative petition (I-130), the beneficiaries of that petition can continue with the process provided they have a substitute sponsor and can show humanitarian reasons exists. The law that allows this substitution is the Family Sponsor Immigration Act.
The substitute sponsor must be at least 18 years of age, living in the US and meet all financial requirements for the Affidavit of Support. The following relations can substitute: spouse, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sibling, child (if at least 18 years of age), son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, or legal guardian.
The government is not required in any given case to reinstate approval of a visa petition, thus reinstatement is a matter of discretion based on the facts of each individual case. There is not an exhaustive list of reasons that may be considered humanitarian but they can include: disruption of a family unit, hardship to a close US citizen or lawful permanent resident relative; hardship to relatives abroad and long residence in the US.