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Immigration Corner | If I adopt a child, can she become a US citizen?

Published:Tuesday | May 21, 2019 | 12:17 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

My wife and I are both naturalised citizens of the United States. We are planning to adopt a teenager from Jamaica. The adoption will take place in Jamaica.We would like to know if when we file for her, how do we make sure that she could eventually become an American Citizen.

Thank you.


Dear HS:

When a US citizen adopts a foreign-born child from Jamaica, there are strict rules surrounding if that adopted child can ever migrate to the United States based on their US adopted parents.

If the child is an orphan – no legal parents or surviving parent who is incapable of caring for the needs of the child – the process to adopt and subsequently petition for the child to live in the United States can be completed without the requirement that the adoptive parents live with the child. If on the other hand, the child is or cannot be declared an orphan, the US government requires that adopted parent reside with the child for two years before or after the adoption.

In both situations above, the adoption must take place before the child is 16 years old.

It is the latter situation that presents the biggest obstacle for Jamaicans who are caring for children in Jamaica – emotionally and financially – but because of the two-year residency requirement, are unable to adopt and petition for the child to join them in the United States.

If the child you adopt enters the United States before age 18, they can derive US citizenship from you. However, if not, the child can apply for US citizenship on their own after age 21 and after they have been a United States Resident for five years. Adoption and US residency are complicated issues and you should consult with an attorney to ensure all your issues can be identified and you can be guided through the process.

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