Integrity Legal

11th December 2009

In a recent article disseminated by AILA, Mr. Brent Renison discussed issues involving the so-called “widow’s penalty” (or “Widow Penalty”) and how recent legislation has been enacted to end the imposition of penalties imposed upon foreign spouses in the event that their US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse should pass away before the adjudication of an adjustment application or an application for a lift of conditions of lawful permanent residence. To quote the article:

“The “widow penalty”, whereby spouses of U.S. citizens and their children faced automatic denial of a visa petition if the death of the spouse occurred prior to adjudication and prior to two years of marriage, effectively ended upon the passage of § 568(c).2 That section removes the two-year marriage requirement from the current law that permits widows and widowers (“widow(er)s”) of U.S. citizens to file a self-petition for themselves and their children.”

It is still required that the American’s widow demonstrate that the marriage was bona fide when it was entered into:

“By removing the two-year precondition to a current statutory program, Congress retained the widow(er) self-petition procedure including the requirement to show a good faith marriage. The law does not alter the rights of widow(er)s who were married two years or more, who have been able to self-petition since 1990.”

The end of the Widow Penalty hopefully marks the beginning of more compassionate treatment of foreign widows of American Citizens. The aforementioned article goes further in its analysis of the new law and the impact it will likely have upon fiancees and spouses of US Citizens:

“The deletion of the two-year marriage requirement will allow a widow(er) who was married less than two years at the time of the citizen spouse’s death to file a Form I-360 self-petition within two years of the law’s passage, or within two years of the spouse’s death, whichever is later.”

It is interesting that this will likely have an impact upon those who enter the United States upon a K1 fiancee visa:

“This self-petition can be filed concurrently with an Application for Adjustment of Status to Lawful Permanent Resident (Form I-485) if the widow(er) is in the United States pursuant to a lawful entry.”

Therefore, if the fiance of a US Citizen enters the USA on a K1 visa, marries the US Citizen, and the US Citizen dies before the adjustment application is either filed or adjudicated, then it would now be possible for the fiance visa holder to self petition for adjustment in these circumstances. In this author’s opinion, this is an equitable and effective way of dealing with what is already a difficult issue.

If a lawful entry is all that is necessary, then the question must be posed: if an alien enters the USA on a valid tourist visa, marries an American who subsequently dies, would that alien be eligible to submit a self petition for adjustment of status? Hopefully these issues will be handled as the new law is brought into effect.


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