Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Immigration Corner: I must move to the US for my children's sake

Published:Tuesday | March 24, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I am seeking your assistance regarding my 18-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. They went to live in the United States (US) with their father, who filed for them. At the time of filing (three years ago), he was a US citizen. I am told that my children are automatically US citizens (please confirm). My question is, when can my daughter legally file for me? I am not confident that they are getting the best care. They are not happy and I am not comfortable with their current living situation, which is not likely to change in the near future. They are both currently attending school.

- MS


Dear MS,

Children derive US citizenship in a variety of ways. If a child is born outside of the US to a parent who is citizen of the US at the time of the birth, an application can be made to register the foreign birth of a US citizen. This can be done at the US embassy in Kingston. The US citizen parent must prove their US citizenship and among other things must show that they resided in the States for five years prior to the birth of the child, two of which must be after age 14 - if the child is born out of wedlock. There are several different possible combinations that could yield automatic citizenship and is not a bestowal that is easily given.

In your children's situation, if they were the beneficiary of a green card from a US citizen parent;,and they entered the US as green card holders before they were 18, and they lived with their US citizen parent, they can derive US citizenship. As with the foreign birth of an American citizen, this is conferral that is not taken lightly by the US government. The US citizen parent with whom they reside can take them and apply for US passports for them that will allow the children to travel, and the parent should also apply for a Certificate of Citizenship to irrevocably prove US citizenship.

If your children are US citizens when they are 21 years old, they can file a petition for a green card for you to reside in the US. When children are separated through migration from the parent they have spent most of their lives with, they are never usually happy and there is a period of adjustment to the new environment that must take place - especially if there is a step-parent involved. The parent who did not migrate also experiences sadness and must go through a period of adjustment. If your children's unhappiness and perceived lack of care goes beyond a normal period of adjustment, then you should have a discussion with their father about possibly returning them to Jamaica (especially if they are in fact US citizens) until you are able to migrate and care for them yourself.

- 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.