It can take years to bring family family members to the United States legally - anywhere from 1 year to 15 years, depending on the category of the petition and the country the beneficiary comes from. The wait unfortunately does not guarantee a visa. Indeed, there are certain circumstances which can automatically terminate the petition. For instance, if the petitioner dies, the petition is automatically revoked. Thus after waiting 15 years, a petition can die with the petitioner.
In such a situation it is possible to seek "humanitarian reinstatement." In order to seek reinstatement, you must file a request at the location where the petition is pending. (I.e., at the embassy abroad or at a Service Center in the United States. For those of us in northern California, you would send it to the to the California Service Center. In order to succeed in your request, you must prove that there is a humanitarian reason why the petition should be reinstated by discussing the following factors: 1) disruption of a family unit; 2) hardship to United States citizens or lawful permanent residents; 3) a beneficiary who is elderly or in ill health (but not so severe that she would be prevented from immigrating); 4) a beneficiary who has had a lengthy residence in the United States; 5) a beneficiary who has no home to go to; 6) undue delay in processing by USCIS or consular officers; 7) a beneficiary who has strong family ties in the United States.
In addition to this request, you will have to submit a new affidavit of support from a different family member since the petitioner has passed away. Acceptable family members who can substitute for the petitioner include: spouse, parent, in-laws, sibling, child (if at least 18 years old), brother-in-law or sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, or legal guardian of beneficiary.
But now for the icing on the cake. At a recent meeting held between attorneys and California Service Staff on November 19, 2008, representatives from the California Service Center indicated that it is currently taking two years to process reinstatement petitions. This seems unconscionable to me. In a situation such as this, where the petitioner has died, the beneficiary is already grieving for her loss. It seems cruel to make her wait an additional two years, just to inform her whether or not the petition will be reinstated. What are they doing for two years and how can this be justified?