Dear Mrs Huntington,
I am writing to you to seek some advice. My daughter was filed for permanent residency in the United States (US) around 2007-2008. However, three years ago, she came to visit me for the summer, and informed me of abuse that she was suffering from her step-mom. The father's wife was the person who filed for my daughter. My child told me that she never wanted to go back to her stepmother.
I noticed that my daughter was depressed and would wake up crying. I took her to the doctor who then recommended that I take her to counselling, and I did. The counsellor advised me that it was best if I kept her here in Jamaica for a while. My daughter has been here three years now and her green card expires in 2017.
Her father is no longer living with his wife because of the way she treated my little girl. I would like her to visit her dad and her other family where her dad lives - he lives with his mother and sister. Also, I have a 10-year US visa. Please advise me where to go and what to do. My daughter needs to go back to her father to go to school. I will be in school come September, and her father is able to take care of her.
Thankfully, your daughter spoke out about her abuse and didn't continue to suffer in silence.
There is always some apprehension when a parent sends their minor child to live with the other parent and a step-parent in America. It is important that the parent in Jamaica keeps a copy of their child's birth certificate, passport (with the visa stamp) and their green card, if it is available. Also, know which school your child is attending in America, contact the school's guidance counsellor and find out how to make yourself known to the school authorities, so you can monitor the progress of your child and can inform the guidance counsellor if there is a problem at home. It is also a good idea to have a relationship with the step-parent and the parent who has the child in the US. Sometimes, the child walking into a new situation has issues adjusting to their new environment and the step-parent may rebel. So, as a parent, you have to use your balanced instincts to read the signals.
Keeping your child in Jamaica for three years is completely understandable as you did what was in the best interest of your child. However, as far as the US government is concerned, your daughter is deemed to have abandoned her residency, because she remained out of the US for more than a year. She will have to apply to return to the United States as a returning resident. This provision allows a permanent resident who left the US on a temporary visit, and who then spent more than one year there through circumstances beyond their control, to apply to return to the US and resume their residency.
In your daughter's situation, you should provide documentary evidence of her previous residency in the US, and the reason for her three-year stay in Jamaica - including documents from her doctors and counsellor.
If the returning resident status is not granted by the US Embassy in Kingston, your daughter's father should go ahead and file for new residency for his daughter.
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States of America; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.