Special visa available to foreign widows of U.S. citizens. Many foreigners who marry Filipinas to not take them to their home countries to become citizens there. There are a variety of reasons. Many have been through costly and painful divorces and they want to remove any possibility of their new wife divorcing them. There is no divorce in the Philippines.
When the foreigner living in the Philippines with his Filipina wife dies, what happens to the wife and kids? In too many cases there is little saving, pensions may stop and the wife and kids may end up destitute.
That’s why there are big advantages to the Filipina of becoming a US or European citizen. When the husband passes away the Filipina has a US or European citizenship and passport. She and any children can relocate overseas and find employment or receive government benefits. Even if the widow remains in the Philippines, as a US citizen she can receive US Social Security Survivor’s benefits, immediately if the couple has children, or when she turns 60. Details at http://www.ssa.gov/pgm/links_survivor.htm The rules can be quite complicated. You can call the Social Security Services section at the US Embassy in Manila at: (63) (2) 301-2000
There is one too little-known alternative for Filipina widows who were married to US Citizens, the I-360 Widow/Widower immigrant visa. The widow or widower can self-apply to immigrate to the US after her husband’s death. Of course their children are already US citizens, if their birth has been registered with the US Embassy in Manila. The widow will need enough money to survive during the I-360 application process, to pay the application fees ($455.00 as of 10-08), to travel to the US Embassy in Manila for interviews and finally to travel to and get settled in the US. This will amount to several thousands of dollars. For more information, go to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Click on the “immigration forms” tab, scroll down to the I-360 line and download the form and instructions.
The widow or widower may self-file this petition if:
- You were married for at least two years to a U.S. citizen who is now deceased and who was a U.S. citizen at the time of death;
- Your citizen spouse’s death was less than two years ago – SO DON’T DELAY;
- You were not legally separated from your citizen spouse at the time of death; and
- You have not remarried.
The I-360 petition must be filed with:
- copy of your marriage certificate to the U.S. citizen and proof of termination of any prior marriages of either of you;
- Copies of evidence that your spouse was a U.S. citizen, such as a birth certificate if born in the United States, Naturalization Certificate or Certificate of Citizenship issued by USCIS; Form FS-240, Report of Birth Abroad of Citizen of the United States; or a U.S. passport which was valid at the time of the citizen’s death; and
- copy of the death certificate of your U.S. citizen spouse.
Unmarried minor children may be included on the same I-360 petition.
Special note to previous married widows: self-petitioning widows of US citizens may be denied visas if it is discovered that there was a prior marriage. When an individual marries more than once, the party applying for immigration benefit must show evidence of the termination of the first marriage as well as the existence and validity of the second marriage. The person seeking the immigration benefit of a marriage has the burden of establishing the validity of the second marriage. Proving that the prior marriage is terminated may either be through court documents granting annulment or dissolution of the marriage. The USCIS generally recognizes annulment granted in a foreign country such as in the Philippines, as a matter of comity, as long as that particular court had jurisdiction to grant the annulment.
The following was posted my Ron McCarthy of the excellent Mag-Anak Yahoo Group: “There have been circumstances where these (I-360) visas have been denied. Needless to say, many lawsuits have been filed against the USCIS regarding this matter. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (which has appellate authority over California, Nevada, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington) was the first circuit court to address this issue. In its precedential case of Freeman v. Gonzalez decided in 2006, the Ninth Circuit held that alien spouses remain immediate relative spouse for the purpose of the immigration law, and that the death of their US citizen spouses prior to the second wedding anniversary does not strip them of the opportunity to obtain permanent residence in the United States.”
I have prepared a guidebook for my wife on the steps she should take should I predecease her. These include:
- Contact our US attorney
- Inform American Citizen Services at the US Embassy in Manila
- Get several copies of my official death certificate. May also need a Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad
- Notify Social Security Administration of my death.
- My wishes regarding disposal of my remains.
- Various instructions on how to handle financial affairs.
- If your wife qualifies for an I-360, be sure she has a copy of your marriage certificate, divorce papers from any of your prior marriages and knows where to find your US Passport. It’s much easier for you to obtain such documentation while you are alive than it will be for your widow after you die.
Sorry if this is not so helpful to non-Americans. I am not knowledgeable about the situation for other nationalities. If you can add more information, please leave a comment below.