Who is eligible to file a widow/widower petition?
In U.S. immigration law, a widow/widower petition refers to a specific type of immigration benefit that allows a widow or widower of a U.S. citizen to obtain lawful permanent resident status (a green card) based on their marital relationship.
To be eligible for a widow/widower petition, the following conditions generally need to be met:
- The petitioner (the deceased U.S. citizen spouse) must have been a U.S. citizen at the time of their death.
- The widow or widower must have been legally married to the U.S. citizen spouse at the time of the spouse’s death, and the marriage must have been bona fide (genuine) and not for immigration purposes.
- they were not legally separated at the time of the death
- The widow or widower must not have remarried before the approval of the petition or the acquisition of permanent residence.
- The widow or widower must file the Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, to establish their eligibility.
- The widow or widower must also provide evidence of the bona fide nature of the marriage, proof of the U.S. citizen spouse’s death, and evidence demonstrating that they meet all other eligibility criteria.
- Widow/widower is otherwise admissible to the U.S. as an immigrant.
Widows and widowers are considered immediate relatives which means that they are not subject to annual numerical quota restrictions and the long waiting period that exists in many of the other family preference categories.
Widows and widowers may either apply for Adjustment of Status or choose the Consular Processing.
Their unmarried children under age 21 will be considered derivative beneficiaries and may accompany or follow to join the parent.
How to apply for a green card as a widow/widower?
To apply for permanent residence, widows and widowers file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant with USCIS.
If the widow/widower last entered the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa, they are eligible to adjust status, even though the person may have overstayed the permitted time or worked illegally.
If the applicant is physically present in the U.S. and eligible to adjust status, they may file the Form I-360 concurrently with Form I-485, Form I-765 (Employment Authorization Application) and Form I-131 (Travel Document Application).
establish that they are not likely to become a public charge.
Applicants must list any and all unmarried children under 21 years of age on the Form I-360 so they may immigrate with or follow to join the principal beneficiary.
If the citizen spouse had filed an I-130 petition on behalf of the foreign national spouse, that petition will automatically convert to an I-360 petition upon the petitioner’s death.
This automatic conversion will occur to I-130 petitions that are pending or approved at the time of the petitioner’s death.
Widow/Widower Filing Fees
You can expect to pay the following government filing fees when submitting your widow/widower application:
If applying in the U.S.:
- Form I-360: $435
- Form I-485 (if applying in the U.S.): $1,225/per applicant (age 14-78)
- Form I-765: $0 (if filing with or after Form I-485)
- Form I-131: $0 (if filing with or after Form I-485)
- Cost of medical exam (if applying in the U.S.): $200-$600/per applicant
- Total: $1,860-$2,260
If applying outside the U.S.:
- Form DS-260: $205/per applicant
- USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220/per applicant
- Cost of medical exam – varies
- Total: $545 + medical examination fee
Always check the official government website for the most up-to-date government fees and submission instructions:
Widow/Widower checklist of documents
The following immigration forms and documents must be submitted with the Form I-360 application:
- Form I-360;
- Form I-485, I-765 and I-131 (only if applicant is enter the U.S. lawfully and is eligible for Adjustment of Status);
- Form I-864W, Request for Exemption for Intending Immigrant’s Affidavit of Support;
- Proof of the deceased spouse’s citizenship at the time of the death (through either birth in the United States or naturalization). Submit at least one of the following documents:
- U.S. birth certificate (if the deceased spouse was born in the U.S.);
- U.S. passport (biographic page) that was valid at the time of the citizen’s death;
- Naturalization certificate;
- Citizenship certificate;
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad (if U.S. citizen was born abroad)
- Proof of the deceased spouse’s death (death certificate);
- Marriage certificate;
- Proof of termination of any prior marriage of either party; and
- Proof of the relationship of any unmarried children under 21 years of age.
How long does it take to get Form I-360 approved?
According to the official USCIS website, it can take anywhere from 7.5 months to 31 months to get Form I-360 approved. See the average processing time for each USCIS service center:
- California Service Center – 7.5 months
- Nebraska Service Center – 15.5 months
- Vermont Service Center – 31 months
If an applicant is physically present in the U.S. and also filed Form I-485, it can take about 1 year to get Form I-485 approved. USCIS might issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) within 2-10 months if you filed Form I-765.
If an applicant is located outside the U.S. it can take anywhere between 2 months to 6 months to complete the visa application process after Form I-360 is approved.