Fri | Apr 20, 2018

Immigration Corner | Will my little brother be taken away?

Published:Tuesday | March 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I have a younger brother who is four years old. My mother is a Jamaican citizen, and she gave birth to him in the United States (US). He has no father listed on his documents, and he has my mother's last name. My mom came back to Jamaica with him over three years ago, and she became ill. My mom died last year of cancer, and my little brother's US passport is set to expire this year.

I am the eldest of my siblings, just 22 years old, and I am not sure what to do regarding the situation of my little brother. I would like him to keep his US citizenship without any problems, but with our mom dead and no father, I'm not sure how his passport can be renewed.

I thought about taking him to the US when I'm going to visit, but I am worried that he'll be taken away from me for being out of the country for too long and for having the only documented parent gone. Do we have any options? What do I do?

- TT

Dear TT,

I am sorry for the loss of your mother and the tremendous responsibility that you have assumed at such a young age.

Your brother cannot lose his US citizenship, regardless of how long he has been outside the US. However, you do not automatically gain legal custody/authority over him by being his oldest sibling. You should contact a lawyer in Jamaica who can assist you in gaining guardianship or some other legal status as is relates to your brother. Once you have achieved legal responsibility for him, you can use that legal document to apply to renew your brother's US passport at the US Embassy in Kingston. You should do this soon, and ensure that you have your brother's US birth certificate.

The longer he waits to renew his US passport, the more documentary evidence the US embassy may require as proof of his US citizenship. Travelling with your brother to the US without legal custody or permission from his parents could lead to complications, and that is all the more reason you should have a custody determination made in Jamaica as soon as possible.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal, international and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. info@walkerhuntington.com.