Sun | Jan 20, 2019

I want my family to join me

Published:Tuesday | September 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington, United States

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I am a naturalised United States (US) citizen who has been living in New York for more than five consecutive years. I would now like to file immigration petition papers for my two children aged 11 and nine years old, respectively, who are currently living in Jamaica with their mother. We have intentions of getting married.

My questions to you are:

What is the fastest way of getting my children to live with me here?

Would marrying their mother affect the processing time, if after we get married I then filed papers for all three?

Does the fact that they were born out of wedlock in any way affect the processing time?

I have evidence of continual contact with my children.

- GF

Dear GF,

As a US citizen, your minor children (under 21) and your wife are considered immediate relatives. Therefore, any petitions filed for them would be processed immediately, which usually means nine months to a year if your family resides in Jamaica. If your wife and children were in the US lawfully, i.e., they entered with visas and are either in status or out of status; they could apply to change/adjust their status and would have an interview in four to six months in America.

Since the children were born out of wedlock, their petitions would only be delayed by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who would want you (the petitioner father) to prove the biological relationship, i.e., that you are the natural father; and that you have a parent/child relationship with your children. This area can be problematic for many fathers who never married the mother of their children. USCIS will often issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) before approving the initial petition. You must prove that you have a relationship with your child. If you choose not to submit to a DNA/paternity test with your response to the RFE, the US embassy in Kingston can still require a DNA test because the regulations require that you prove you are the natural father if you do not legitimise your out-of-wedlock child.

It appears that you have an ongoing relationship with the children's mother and plan to marry her. It would be in your best interest to marry her now and file for your family at the same time. You would need to file three separate petitions - one for each person.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States, and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special Magistrate in Broward County, Florida; and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Justice.