On December 2, 2009, the USCIS published an internal memorandum providing additional guidance for surviving spouses of immediate relative petitions regarding President Obama’s elimination of the widow penalty on October 28, 2009. President Obama signed a new law on that date that keeps surviving spouses and their children eligible for lawful permanent residence even if they were married to their U.S. citizen spouse fewer than 2 years at the time that spouse died. Prior to this law, there was a “widow penalty” for foreign national spouses of deceased U.S. citizens if the couple had been married fewer than 2 years at the time of the spouse’s death. In those instances, the foreign national lost his/her immediate relative status and could no longer seek permanent residence. This is no longer the case under President Obama’s new law. However, surviving spouses must file for permanent residence within 2 years of the U.S. citizen’s death to obtain the benefit of this new law. If the person’s death occurred prior to October 28, 2009, surviving spouses have until October 28, 2011 to file their petitions. This applies whether the person is pursuing an immigrant visa abroad or adjusting his/her status in the U.S. If you have any questions or need assistance with this type of petition, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.