On October 20, 2009, the Senate passed legislation that would end the so-called "Widow Penalty" in immigration. The House previously voted to pass the bill. President Obama signed the bill into law on October 28, 2009.
The bill contains two measures to address issues involving immigrants whose sponsoring petitioner dies before their permanent residency applications are approved. First, the law allows widows and widowers of US citizens to petition for their own status, despite the death of their spouse. This provision also applies to the children of these immigrants. Second, the law provides for certain survivors’ rights for other types of immigrants.
More information, and answers to frequently asked questions, can be found at http://www.ssad.org/images/Legislation_Passed_FAQ.pdf.