Dear Mrs Huntington,
I am a Jamaican citizen, the mother of two children ages 16 years and eight years. Their father and I are no longer together. The children live with me. Their father is now married to an American who is filing for them. I want to allow them to get their green card, but I also want them to reside with me in Jamaica and visit America periodically.
I know the father is very incompetent and not able to take care of my two daughters. How can I ensure that when I send them up to America he will allow them to return to me? Is there some document the father and myself can both sign for him to keep his word.
I am presuming from your letter that you and the father of your children were never married; hence there is no divorce document that establishes custody of the children.
You ought to have a court in Jamaica establish that you have legal custody of your children. However, if you allow a parent to file for permanent residency for a child, that signals to a court that you are permitting your child to go and live with the petitioning parent in the United States. Notwithstanding a custody order from Jamaica, it would be difficult to have a court of law in the United States return a child to Jamaica who is a permanent resident of the United States.
Additionally, a green card is a document that allows the holder to live in the United States - not visit. You should not allow your children to receive a green card until you are ready for them to live in the United States. There is a provision for the children to receive a Re-entry Permit that is valid for two years and would allow them to remain in Jamaica for two years and not lose their green cards.
You have not indicated whether you know the children's stepmother or whether you have even spoken with her. If you plan to allow the children to go and live with their father and stepmother, you should definitely get to know her. She will be raising your children and you need to find out what kind of person she is and how she will raise your children.
On the other hand, it is also important for your children to understand that if they are going to a new country to live with their stepmother, they have some adjustments they need to make to a new environment and to a new person.
This is a very difficult situation that many parents find themselves in - one parent is now established in the United States and wants to petition for children in Jamaica. On the one hand, the parent in Jamaica wants their children to have the opportunity for advancement that comes with US residency, but on the other hand the parent does not want to lose custody of their children.
If you are going to allow the children to migrate, make sure you keep copies of all their documents and the numbers of their documents, eg their passports and green cards. Once the child is approved for a green card in Jamaica, a visa is stamped in their passport to allow them to travel. That visa should be photocopied to ensure you have their alien number in the event of a problem. There are many stories of children being returned to Jamaica without their passports and green cards and dumped with their Jamaican parent because the relationship with the new spouse and step-children is not working.
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises law 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. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org