On June 11, 2009, Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY) and Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Orphans, Widows and Widowers Protection Act (S. 1427) which addresses the immigration-related hardships caused by the death of a sponsoring relative.
Specifically, the bill would:
- protect orphans, parents and spouses of United States citizens by allowing them to continue their applications through the family immigration system in cases where the citizens' or residents' relative died if the individual self-petitions within two years;
- allow the spouse and minor children of family-sponsored immigrants and derivative beneficiaries of employment-based visas to benefit from a filed visa petition after the death of a relative or adjust status on the basis of a petition filed before the death of the sponsoring relative if the application is filed within two years;
- allow the spouse and minor children of refugees and asylees to immigrate to the U.S. despite the death of the principal applicant and allow them to adjust their status to permanent residence;
- provide processes to reopen previously denied cases and allow individuals to be paroled into the U.S. in cases where the sponsoring relative died after submitting an immigration application; and
- promote efficient naturalization of widows and widowers by allowing the surviving spouse to continue with a naturalization application as long as the deceased spouse was a citizen of the United States during the three years prior to filing.
You may also read the interim rule passed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano to grant deferred action for two years to widows and widowers of U.S. citizens as well as their unmarried children under 18 years old—who reside in the United States and who were married for less than two years prior to their spouse’s death.