Q: My friend has been waiting a long time for her green card. Her brother filed for her a while ago, but he passed away. Can she still receive a green card?
A: The short answer is yes, it may be possible. It is an easier process if your friend lives in the US, but even if she does not live in the US, there is a chance she can get the green card. For the long answer, keep reading!
To begin, your friend’s brother is considered a petitioner since he filed an application for her, and your friend is a beneficiary of the application. Previously, the death of a petitioner meant that the beneficiary could no longer receive permanent residency (a green card) except in rare cases where DHS would agree to humanitarian reinstatement. This was referred to as the “widow’s penalty” as many surviving beneficiaries were widows after their petitioner-spouse passed away. Now there is relief available under INA section 204(l) in addition to humanitarian reinstatement. Below is a brief description of the two options.