Fri | Mar 23, 2018

Seeking help for my Venezuelan friends

Published:Tuesday | April 5, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I have a friend who recently had a baby here in the United States (US). We're in Florida. She and her husband are residents of Venezuela but are looking to start the process to become US citizens, and now because of their baby, they are looking to register him as a citizen as well.

If you could brief me on the process of becoming citizens and the cost, I'd really appreciate it. Or if you could direct me to a resource that would have that information, I'd appreciate that too.


- A Friend

Dear Friend,

In order to become a citizen of the US you must either be born in the US; born outside the US to US parent(s); or first be a US permanent resident and then become a naturalised citizen.

In the case of your friends' son who was born in the US, he is automatically a US citizen. At the hospital he would have been registered and your friends should secure his US birth certificate. They can also secure a US passport for their son.

On the other hand, your friends must first become permanent residents (green-card holders) before they can apply to become naturalised US citizens. They would have to be petitioned by a family member or employer in order to become US residents. Assuming they entered the US legally, and depending on whether they have already overstayed the time they were given when they entered the States, they may or may not be able to adjust status through a family or employment-based petition.

As they are from Venezuela where there is political instability, they may or may not be able to apply for asylum and be allowed to legally remain in the US on a path to permanent residency and eventually US citizenship. Their US-citizen child cannot petition for them to live legally in the US until he is 21 years old, and they would have to have entered the US legally.

Your friends can visit to find information on migrating to the US, but they would be well advised to seek the services of a US-immigration attorney.

- 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.