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What happens if my sponsor passes away while we are in the middle of the green card process? Can I still get a green card or am I done? This is a very delicate situation and the answer, as well as the application process, depends on the relationship and citizenship status of your deceased sponsor.
The relationship with the most options available to an immigrant is, not surprisingly, those in a marriage relationship. If your sponsor was your U.S. citizen spouse, you are in the category with the most options available to be able to still obtain your green card. The ideal situation for immigration success following the death of a sponsor is after the initial filing of a request for a green card. In this situation, you can still carry on with the process and obtain a green card for yourself and any minor children you have.
There are situations where it is even possible to receive a green card if the U.S. citizen spouse dies before starting the petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). How is this done? Not surprising, there is a very specific application process that must be followed.
Besides the incredible ability to continue with the request, an added benefit for widowed spouses is that they will not need to obtain a financial sponsor unlike people in all other family categories. For those in this special category, qualification is dependent on filing no more than two years after the death of the U.S. citizen spouse. Keep in mind that windows or widowers cannot get remarried before obtaining their approval or this new status will destroy their right to obtain a green card based on the former relationship. Practically speaking, remarriage to another U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident does not matter much since the immigrant typically just starts another green card process with their new spouse anyway.
In addition to the example above, the Family Sponsor Immigration Act of 2009 was created to provide solutions for other family categories where their original petitioner dies. The act provides options for family members in the following categories: spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents; unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of green card holders; married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.
Fortunately, the children of people in any of the above categories can also be included in the new petitions as long as they continue to meet the legal definition of a “child” (those under 21) when the visa priority date becomes current and a visa becomes available for final processing. As a reminder, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents do not need to worry about priority dates since these family members can move forward with their final processing without waiting for a visa to become available.
For some immigrants in the above family member categories, it is also possible to apply for what’s called a “reinstatement” of the immigrant petition based on humanitarian grounds. For this benefit, the immigrant is required to meet some additional conditions to be able to continue. What are these conditions? The beneficiary must have an existing petition already approved by USCIS and they must have been living in the U.S. at the time the petitioner died. Additionally, the immigrant must continue living in the U.S. until the date USCIS makes a decision on the application. A final requirement that this law places on the immigrant is having to replace the original petitioner with someone eligible and willing to act as their new financial sponsor.
Given the complexity of these situations, it is important to speak with an immigration attorney first. Please contact our office to schedule a consultation so we can help you with your immigration matter. You can do this either by calling our office at 616-805-3435 or by using the following link to schedule an appointment online: