How to Obtain a Green Card as a Widower

28 Nov, 2023

The process of obtaining a green card in the event of a spouse’s passing can be overwhelming and emotionally challenging. However, it’s crucial to understand the options available and act swiftly within the given time frame.

Green Card Option for Widowers

In the wake of a spouse’s passing, widowers face a unique set of challenges when it comes to immigration. Fortunately, there is an exception that allows a foreign spouse to still obtain a green card under specific circumstances.

I-130 Adjustment Case

If a widower had an I-130 adjustment case pending at the time of their spouse’s passing, or even if there was no pending case and both spouses were overseas when the U.S. citizen spouse died, the foreign spouse may still be eligible for a green card. However, it’s crucial that they do not remarry and request it within two years of their spouse’s passing.

I360 Widower Case

In the event of an I-130 pending case, it automatically converts to what’s known as an I360 widower case. If there was no pending case, the widower can submit an I360. This process often involves submitting the application directly to the embassy if the widower is overseas, or with the adjustment status application if they are in the United States.

Time Sensitivity

It’s important for widowers to be prepared to act swiftly, as there is a two-year time frame within which they must initiate the process. While it may be challenging to navigate the paperwork and legal requirements during a period of mourning, being proactive is essential to secure the opportunity to obtain a green card.

Additional Considerations

Marital Status and Common Law Marriage

It’s crucial to note that the green card option for widowers applies only if they were married to a U.S. citizen, not a green card holder. Additionally, the marriage must have been legally recognized, and common law marriages may not always meet the criteria.

Recognition of Common Law Marriage

The issue of common law marriage recognition varies from state to state. While some states, such as New Jersey, do not recognize common law marriages, others, like California, do. This distinction can have significant implications for widowers seeking to establish the validity of their relationship in the absence of a formal marriage certificate.


Navigating the complexities of obtaining a green card as a widower requires a clear understanding of the legal processes and time-sensitive requirements. While the emotional weight of losing a spouse can be overwhelming, being aware of the available options and seeking timely legal counsel are pivotal in pursuing this immigration avenue. For further information and guidance on this topic, individuals are encouraged to reach out for professional assistance.

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