Immigration Newsletter

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Senate Approves Measure to End ‘Widow Penalty’ - NYTimes.com

Senate Approves Measure to End ‘Widow Penalty’ - NYTimes.com

The Senate approved a measure on Tuesday that would end what has become known as the “widow penalty” — the government’s practice of annulling foreigners’ applications for permanent residency when their American spouses die before the marriage is two years old.

The measure, which passed 79-19, was contained in a conference report that accompanied an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The House of Representatives passed the conference report last week. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

While the foreign spouse of a United States citizen may be eligible for residency under American law, the government has argued that the spouse’s death before the two-year mark ends the marriage, canceling the foreigner’s right to be considered for residency and opening the door to deportation.

The new provision does not directly address the government’s definition of marriage, but it allows foreigners married to Americans for less than two years to submit their own petition for residency within two years of the spouse’s death, as long as they have not