Thu | Dec 8, 2016

How can a US resident reunite with her 8-y-o child in Jamaica?

Published:Tuesday | September 25, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I am seeking your advice. My mother is now a resident of the United States (US). This is due to the fact that my brother who is a citizen, filed for her. She has been there from January of this year. She, however, has an eight-year-old daughter living in Jamaica right now and would like to take her to the US, but she doesn't have a US visa. What do you think she should do? Would it be wise for her to come to Jamaica and take her to the American embassy? What is the best thing for her to do? She really needs to be with her mother.

- L.J.

Dear L.J.,

When a son or daughter files a petition for their parent, there are no derivative benefits for family members of the parent. However, when a parent files for their adult son or daughter, derivative benefits are possible for the grandchildren. This distinction causes a lot of confusion and misunderstanding in our community.

Your mother's eight year-old daughter and your mother's son are brother and sister and there is a separate category for brothers and sisters. That category (F4) is, unfortunately, the one that historically has the longest waiting period, primarily because they are the largest number of applications filed. Currently, the waiting time in the F4 category is just over 11 years.

Your mother's option now is to immediately file a petition for her daughter. This will place the child in the F2A category and people who were filed for before May 8, 2010 are being processed. This means it is currently taking just a little over two years for a visa to be available to under 21-year-old, unmarried children of US permanent residents. Keep in mind that the availability of visas is entirely up to the US Department of State and, while it is now taking two years in the F2A category, there is no guarantee that the waiting period will not increase or decrease.

If after your mother files a petition for her daughter she continues to experience difficulty with the separation from the child, she can apply for a Re-Entry Permit from US Citizenship and Immigration Services to be outside of the US for up to two years. She must prove why she needs to be outside the US and, if granted, she can return to Jamaica and be with her child.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and Family, Criminal & Personal Injury Law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and Special Magistrate in Broward County, Florida.