If you are the widow of a United States citizen, residing in the United States, and wish to become a permanent resident, you may apply for an "Adjustment of Status." This process is commonly known as getting your "Green Card" and is authorized by the Immigrant and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA). Once you have your Green Card, you can live and work freely in the United States.
If your U.S. citizen spouse filed for a Green Card on your behalf before he or she died, the application (Form I-130) will automatically be automatically converted to a Form I-360 (Adjustment of Status petition.) You do not have to reapply.
If your U.S. citizen spouse was a U.S. military member killed in action, you may file Form I-360 as an "immediate relative."
An Adjustment of Status is the process for someone residing in the U.S. If you are a widow(er) living outside the U.S., you have the same legal immigration opportunities but follow a different procedure. This procedure in called, "Consular Processing" and you apply through a U.S. embassy or consulate.
You have the additional option of filing for a Green Card on your own, not as a widow(er.) You can file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status at the same time or after your filing your petition as a widow(er.) In this case, you file Form I-485.
Your children under the age of twenty-one may be included in your petition. So long as they are under the age of twenty-one at the time of application, federal law prevents them from aging out by "freezing" their age at the time of application so they continue to remain eligible no matter how long the petition process takes. Once this process is complete, you will receive your Green Card within a few months.
We understand that applying for your Green Card is a long and arduous task. If you have questions regarding obtaining a green card and becoming a permanent resident, consult with a qualified immigration attorney. Immigration is a very specialized area of law; so, be sure your attorney focuses his or her practice on immigration and getting green cards.