Wed | Sep 2, 2015

Immigration matters - I want my outside child to join me

Published:Tuesday | June 15, 2010

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I had a child out of wedlock many years ago. She is now about 37 years old. I had concealed this from my wife initially but when the child was around 14 years old, I bit the bullet and told my wife of my infidelity. I was terrified my wife was going to divorce me but decided whatever the outcome was, it was a chance I had to take. I told her I was ashamed and remorseful of my deed. It took her some counselling to get over the affair but she came around and forgave me. Before, I had to be clandestine in giving support for my daughter but after telling my wife, I could openly support my child's living expenses as well as her schooling. I

 find my wife has shown as much love to my daughter as our children. Sometime in 1998, my wife even suggested we give our house in Jamaica to my daughter. I became a US citizen in 1995 and on my application for citizenship, I declared my outside child as one of my children. In trying to protect my reputation, the mother of the child did not put my name as the father on the birth certificate. My daughter is a very wonderful young lady and when she was getting married, I told her to tell her husband-to-be who her father was. So, my name was recorded on her wedding certificate. The problem is, I would like to help her to come to the US because I want her to be close to me. Can I file an application for her and her family to get a permanent visa to the States? Would the authorities consider such application and if so, how long would it take?

- H.P.


Dear H.P.,

I am happy your wife and your daughter have formed a loving relationship.

When a father files a petition for permanent residency for a child that was not born during a marriage, there are two major concerns for the US government in the form of the Department of Homeland Security's United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The first concern is whether the child is biologically related to the father. USCIS will look to whether the father's name was placed on the birth certificate at birth, or whether it was added after the child's initial registration. If the father marries the mother before the child is 18 years old, the child will be deemed to be legitimised. Where no marriage takes place, USCIS will routinely request a DNA test to determine whether the father is biologically related to the child.

The second concern is whether while the child was a minor, the father supported the child financially and whether there was a bona fide parent-child relationship. In determining if there was a bona fide relationship, USCIS will want to know if the father showed love, care and concern for the child.

In your situation, where at 37 years old, your name is not on your daughter's birth certificate you can be assured that USCIS will want a DNA test to determine if you are biologically related to your daughter. If the DNA test should indicate you are not the biological father of your daughter, you would not be able to sponsor her to live in the US. Your daughter should contact the Registrar General's Department at www.rgd.gov.jm to immediately add your name to her birth registration certificate. She should add your name for other legal reasons as well.

If the DNA test is positive, you must be prepared to show you had a bona fide relationship with your daughter. USCIS will expect, among other things, proof you financially supported your daughter. Additionally, if your name was on any of her school records, her medical files, and/or her baptismal records, the USCIS will want to see those documents. If you have photographs of yourself and your daughter from birth to present, USCIS will also be interested in viewing those photos. In this case, affidavits from yourself, your wife, your daughter, her mother and any family member or friend who are aware of your relationship with your daughter as a minor should also be submitted to USCIS for their consideration.

Since your daughter is married, she would be in the F3 preference category as the married child of an American citizen. It is currently taking about nine years for visas to become available to persons in the F3 category.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises in Florida in the areas of immigration, family, corporate and personal injury law. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. info@walkerhuntington.com or editor@gleanerjm.com.