Sun | Feb 25, 2018

Immigration Corner | What's the best option for my son?

Published:Tuesday | September 27, 2016 | 12:04 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I have a 17-year-old son who is currently in the United States (US) visiting. It is his desire to reside in the US and attend school there to make something of himself. He is currently staying with a relative (cousin), who is an American citizen, and who is in the process of getting my son registered in a public school. However, in order for him to be registered he needs to have a custodian. Both myself and my son's father have no objections to granting custodianship to my cousin.

I would like my son to be in the US legally and not as an undocumented child. What options do I have at this stage? If my cousin is granted custody of my son, what options does she have?

My son has not overstayed his visit and I am trying to see what can be done before his visiting period expires.

- B.B.

Dear BB,

As a 17-year-old child, your son will be allowed to attend high school although he does not have legal status in the US. Your US citizen cousin can be granted a custodian authorisation or legal guardianship to allow her to enrol him in high school and act in place of his parents. As such, she will be given all information as to his progress in school and with his doctors.

However, once your son is 18, he will begin to accrue unlawful presence that will serve to harm him with immigration. The concept is that under 18 years of age children cannot determine where they live. At age 18 they are deemed adults and able to make their own decisions and therefore choose to live illegally in the US.

Your son does not have many options available to him at this time. Your cousin, although a US citizen, cannot file for your son and he is too old (over 16) for her to adopt him and then file for his residency. It appears that both parents - you and your husband - do not have US residency or citizenship to allow you to file for your son.

His options are: marriage to a US citizen once he is 18 years old; change his status to a student visa to attend private high school and then college; return to Jamaica, complete high school and then apply for a student visa for college. It is in your son's best interest to return to Jamaica and not abuse his US visa and explore other legal options to migrating to the States.

- 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.