Mon | Jan 22, 2018

Immigration Corner | How do I get to see my husband?

Published:Tuesday | June 14, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I recently got married. My husband has a child from a previous relationship. The mother of the child has died and my husband left Jamaica. Due to the terms of his contract, he will not be able to return for a year. I, however, would like to get the child a visitor's visa so we can visit his father on holidays.

I was informed that I cannot accompany the child to the visa interview. According to my friend, the father of the child has to return and accompany the child or I would have to go through the courts to legally adopt the child in order to be deemed a legal guardian and become eligible to accompany the child. How true is this?

- S

Dear S,

As the wife of the child's father, you are the child's step-mother, and as such, a legal relationship exists between you and the child. Such a relationship extends in US immigration law to permanent residency if the marriage between you and the child's father took place before the child was 18 years old - which means that you could file directly for permanent residency for the child or the child could file directly for you at the appropriate time. Certainly, if you are the child's stepmother, the birth mother is deceased and the child is living with you, you can take the child to the US embassy to apply for a visitor's visa.

You did not indicate if you already have a US visitor's visa. Whether you and/or the child receives a non-immigrant visa from the US embassy will depend on the consular officer's determination that you have sufficient ties to Jamaica and that you intend to return after the visit.

Please ensure that you are entirely truthful on the application, especially on the whereabouts of your husband in the States. Too often, persons answer questions on the visa application to suit their interests, stating what they think the embassy wants to hear in order to get a visa. You should always be truthful, even if it means that you will be denied a visa now. Your situation will always change and even if denied a visa today, you can be granted one in the future. Likewise, someone may file for you for US permanent residency and answers you give on your non-immigrant visa application, if false, can result in your being denied a green card. In some instances, denial of a green card because of fraud makes a person non-eligible for a waiver - depending on which US family member does the petitioning. I know you want to see your husband during the year that he will be in the States on contract, but please think of the future and do everything the right way.

As for friends giving legal advice, be very wary. Immigration law is second in complexity in the US only to the Internal Revenue Code. It is an ever-evolving system, literally changing daily and only immigration practitioners can assist.

- 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.