Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Immigration Corner | Family concerns

Published:Tuesday | January 31, 2017 | 1:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I've been a green-card holder since September 2012 and have been back and forth to Jamaica. My immediate family (son and husband) still live in Jamaica.

If I file for my five-year-old son, will he be able to continue his education in Jamaica until he is ready for high school?

My husband has a good job and he is not thinking of giving it up any time soon. If I file for him, will he be able to stay in Jamaica and work on his green card?

How long is the process, and how do I go about starting?

I might apply for citizenship this year or go back to Jamaica for a while. I would not want to deny them the opportunity of living here (in the States) in the future if they desire to do so.

- S.

Dear S.,

A person with a green card is supposed to live, work, or go to school in the United States. If unable to take up residency in America while a permanent resident, there is a re-entry permit that would allow the green-card holder to live outside the States for up to two years - if approved.

There are many green-card holders who do not reside in the States and have not applied for a re-entry permit. They travel back and forth on their green cards while maintaining their residency and jobs in Jamaica or other foreign countries. Most people believe that if they travel to the US every six months, that is enough to maintain their US residency. The truth is that even if, as a green-card holder you travel back and forth to the US every six months, but only spend a few days during your visit, you can still endanger your US residency.

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer who processes all persons entering the US can place you in secondary inspection and determine whether to place you in proceedings to strip you of your US residency. They look at the amount of time you spend in America, your ties to America - e.g. employment, housing, finances, etc.

If you intend to file for both your son and your husband now, and they have no intention of migrating for two to four years after receiving US residency, at some point, they could potentially encounter problems during entry to the States. As a US permanent resident, if you file a petition for your husband and/or minor child, it is currently taking two years for visas to become available. When you are a US citizen, filing for husband or minor child, the process takes nine months to a year to get to the interview at the US embassy in Kingston.

- 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. info@walkerhuntington.com.