Conditional Residents: How to File I-751 for Green Card After Spouse's Death

No need to wait until the two years are ending -- widows and widowers can submit their I-751 for permanent residence immediately after the death of a spouse.

If you received a “conditional,” two-year green card after marrying a U.S. citizen, you probably know that you need to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to remove the “conditions” on your U.S.residency and make it permanent. (See “Marriage-Based Conditional Residents: When and How to Apply for a Permanent Green Card”). Usually the petition must be filed by you and your spouse together, and submitted within the 90 days before your two years as a conditional resident are over.

But what if your husband or wife has died at some point during those two years or soon after, before you submitted or received a decision on your petition?

If Your Spouse Died After Signing the Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence

If your spouse signed the petition (the “I-751”) to remove conditions on residence and died before you could file it, you should not send that I-751, but rather file a different one with just your signature, asking for a “waiver” of the requirement that both spouses sign the petition.

In Part 2 of the form, “Basis for Condition,” request the waiver by checking box 1.c., “My spouse…is deceased.” Include a copy of the death certificate.

You will still need to submit all the evidence that shows that your marriage was “bona fide” (real) along with your I-751.

If your spouse died after you filed an I-751 with both your signatures, USCIS cannot approve the I-751 (not even if it was submitted on time, before the deadline). You will have to ask USCIS to convert your I-751 into one with a waiver request. Make an InfoPass appointment by going to https://infopass.uscis.gov so you can explain your situation in person, at a USCIS office.

If Your Spouse Died Before Signing the Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence

If your spouse died before the time came to file an I-751, or otherwise never signed an I-751 before his or her death, you can file an I-751 on your own.

In Part 2 of the form, “Basis for Condition,” request a waiver of the requirement that both spouses sign by checking box 1.c., “My spouse…is deceased.” Submit all the evidence that shows that your marriage was bona fide along with your I-751, and a copy of the death certificate.

When to File Your I-751

Typically, you and your spouse are expected to file an I-751 to remove the conditions on your residency within the 90-day period preceding the two-year anniversary of the date you got your conditional green card. If your spouse died before you two were able to do that, you can sign and file the I-751 yourself at any time, with a waiver request based on the death of your spouse.

For example, you can file your I-751 before the usual 90-day period if your spouse died shortly after you became a conditional resident. There’s no need to wait until 90 days before the two-year anniversary of your getting conditional residence.

If your spouse died and you’ve been a conditional resident for less than two years, it’s a good idea to file your I-751 before the two years are up. USCIS keeps track of conditional residents who don’t file an I-751 and tries to deport them. USCIS won’t know that your spouse died, and you might be put into removal (deportation) proceedings before an immigration judge. You can make those proceedings go away by filing a successful I-751 (since you can file an I-751 with a waiver request at any time), but you obviously want to avoid the cost, inconvenience, and stress of that situation if you can.

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