Did Your Spouse Pay the Ultimate Sacrifice Before Becoming a US Citizen? Here's What You Need to Know

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Over 31,000 people serving in the U.S. armed forces are not American citizens. These service members put their lives on the line fighting for freedom, and some of them die while doing so. The United States recognizes and honors all service members, especially those who pay the ultimate sacrifice, and in the case of non-citizens, the U.S. allows the fallen soldiers' closest family members to apply for posthumous citizenship on their behalf. 

If your spouse died while serving in the U.S. armed forces as an immigrant, his or her dream of becoming a naturalized citizen may still be fulfilled. With your loved one's citizenship, you then will be able to apply for survivor benefits for yourself and your children. Here's what you need to know. 

Applying for posthumous citizenship for service members

Posthumous citizenship is awarded to those who have died as the result of disease or injury while on active duty during periods of military hostilities. The military member should also have served honorably. The closest relative is the one who will need to file the application. This can be a parent, spouse, sibling, or adult child. The application can be obtained through an immigration lawyer, who will be able to help you fill out the form. 

You will need to show proof of your loved one's military service and the cause of his or her death. To get this paperwork, schedule an appointment with the family advocate at the post where your loved one was assigned. For proof of your loved one's honorable status while in the military, the family advocate will contact your loved one's last commanding officer.

The death certificate should annotate the cause of death. If it does not say anything about the cause of death being related to military service, your family advocate may help clear this matter up for you by contacting the adjutant general at your loved one's last military-duty assignment. Alternatively, an immigration lawyer can walk you through the steps you'll need to take in order to get this document corrected so you can move forward in the process of obtaining posthumous citizenship for your loved one. 

What posthumous citizenship means for you and other family members

When the application is processed, it will give your loved one U.S. citizenship status from the date of death. What this means for you and your family members is that you will be automatically be eligible for immigration benefits as immediate relatives for up to two years after the death of your loved one. What this means is that you can then get your green card with your deceased loved one being your sponsor because he or she had citizenship at the time of their death. 

You and your children will be eligible for survivor benefits as well, including dependency and indemnity compensation and survivors' pension. To be eligible, you cannot be remarried, and your income cannot exceed the requirements of the survivors' pension program. To obtain these benefits, schedule an appointment with the nearest Veteran's Administration facility. 

However, it's a good idea to allow the applications for your loved one's citizenship and your immigration status to be completed before filing for these benefits through the VA. That way, there will be no question as to your immigration status and eligibility for receiving the various benefits that are given to survivors of military service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. 

If you are struggling financially, ask your immigration lawyer if you can be considered for an expedited application process. Typically, this is awarded to those who are able to show a dire need, such as those who are homeless or facing expensive health situations. Learn more by talking to an immigration lawyer. 


4 November 2016

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