Although vaccines are now widely available across the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more than 600,000 deaths and 33 million cases. Unfortunately, for many immigrants who are petitioning for a green card (lawful permanent residence), a petitioner’s or sponsor’s death will certainly make the process more challenging.
In the past, the death of a petition also results in the end of the application process. Now, it is possible that applicants may still obtain a green card despite the unfortunate passing of a sponsor, depending on several factors.
If Your Petitioner Passes Away Before Your Petition Was Approved
If your sponsor already filed Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) but you haven’t received any notice back from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), then your case will be revoked, and you will not be allowed to have the petition reinstated.
If Your Petitioner Passes Away After Your Petition Was Approved
If your I-130 has been approved but you have yet to complete the next phase of the application process—such as adjusting your status or undergoing consular processing in your home country—then your sponsor’s death may result in the end of your application process.
Yet, if a petitioner dies, the immigrant may be able to seek “reinstatement” under the Family Sponsor Immigration Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama in 2009. This process allows the immigrant’s petition to be “reinstated” if he/she can retain a “substitute sponsor” to take the original petitioner’s place in order to continue the green card application process.
You must meet the following conditions if you are eligible for reinstatement:
- USCIS has already approved your Form I-130
- You were living in the U.S. at the time of your sponsor’s death and continue to reside there on the date USCIS decides on your application status
- You found a substitute sponsor
A substitute sponsor must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen or green card holder, and related to the immigrant as either a spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, in-law, or legal guardian. Additionally, you must also meet the same income requirements (from the Poverty Guidelines under Form I-864 [Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act]) as the original petitioner and provide the same financial documentation.
If You Are a Widow or Widower of a U.S. Citizen
If you were married to or the minor child of a U.S. citizen, you may continue the green card application process, even if your U.S. citizen spouse or parent passed away before he/she filed Form I-130 or prior to approval by USCIS. You must file Form I-360 within two years after the death of your U.S. citizen spouse/parent.
However, if you remarry prior to the approval of your green card, you will lose the right to lawful permanent residency under the current petition.
If you or a loved one is interested in obtaining a green card in Costa Mesa or Orange County, CA, contact the Law Offices of Joyce Komanapalli Jones today at (949) 264-0323 for a free case evaluation. Get a skilled immigration lawyer with more than 15 years of legal experience on your side!