Tue | Nov 30, 2021

Immigration Corner | Am I entitled to a widow’s pension?

Published:Tuesday | October 26, 2021 | 12:07 AM
Dahlia Walker Huntington
Dahlia Walker Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I am a Jamaican who was married to an American man, who died in 2009.

I want to know if I am entitled to any benefits from his estate or government widow’s pension? If so, what do I need to do to claim them?

– AD

Dear AD,

As the widow of an American citizen, you were entitled to self-petition for a green card. This benefit, however, expired two years after the death of the American citizen spouse – in your case in 2011.

For general information, any person whose spouse dies without them being a permanent resident, can self-petition for US residency within two years of the death of the American. The intending immigrant spouse must prove the validity of the marriage for immigration purposes. This provision applies whether the surviving spouse lived in the United States or outside in a foreign country. The surviving spouse must be prepared to prove the relationship as they would be expected to if the US citizen had filed a petition for residency and they attended an immigrant visa interview. Similarly, if the deceased spouse was living with the intending immigrant outside the United States, the surviving spouse would have to produce evidence of their life together. Any minor children would also benefit from a widow’s self-petition as a dependent.

This widow’s self-petition is one of the few instances when a person can file for themselves to become a resident of the United States.

When it comes to benefits from an estate – any assets left behind by the deceased – that would be governed by whether the deceased left a will or died without one (intestate). The rules in America governing an estate is set by each state and will vary. In your case, there is also the issue of time. You are making inquiries into an estate 12 years after the death, and what, if any, estate that there might have been for you to partake of. may have already been distributed to other heirs. You can make inquiry with an attorney in the state that your husband had assets as to state law and, specifically, if your husband had an estate that was handled through the probate court.

As to US government benefits, widows are eligible to receive benefits based on the benefits that were available to a deceased American. It is a very intricate process to determine the amount, if any, that may be available. You may contact the US Social Security Administration, www.ssa.gov, and provide information about your husband to determine if you are eligible for any benefits. If indeed you are eligible for social security benefits, there is a residency requirement for the beneficiary to be present in the United States for a certain number of days each year.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq, is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a diversity and inclusion consultant, mediator and former special magistrate and hearing officer in Broward County, Florida. info@walkerhuntington.com