Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
I have been reading your column weekly and I find it very helpful. My issue is that I got married recently and my husband is an American citizen but lives in Jamaica with me. He wants me to get a visa but my concern is that if he is living in Jamaica, how will I be able to get it?
He is actually in America now and went to get some information and they told him he has to get some land paper to prove that he is living in Jamaica and I have to get some documents to show that I have some ties here.
I am awaiting your response so I can relate it to my husband before he returns to Jamaica.
You and your husband have found yourself in a 'catch 22' situation that many spouses of United States (US) citizens and some children and parents of US citizens find themselves in with regards to travel to the US from Jamaica.
In order for a person to be favourably considered for a non-immigrant visa, they have to demonstrate to the US embassy that they have sufficient ties in their home country to indicate that they do not intend to migrate. That is, if they receive a non-immigrant visa, they will travel to the US and go back home without trying to remain in the US.
The embassy typically views persons with US citizen spouses and minor children with US citizen parents as automatically having an intention to migrate and very rarely grant them non-immigrant visas. Such applicants are often told to go and let their US citizen spouse or parents file for them for immigrant visa status. The problem with that is not everyone wants to live in the US; many people simply want to visit and return home.
As the spouse of a US citizen, if you are lawfully in the US as a non-immigrant, your spouse can file for you to change your status to a permanent resident. Although this is perfectly legal, the US government discourages it and when there is an avenue for this to be done, e.g., allowing the spouse of a US citizen to travel to the US as a visitor, that door is often closed.
The flip side of this problem is that the US embassy in Kingston requires spouses and/or minor children of US citizens living in Jamaica to demonstrate that the entire family will migrate to the US once the Jamaican spouse or child is granted an immigrant visa. Hence the catch-22 situation.
As a US citizen married to and living in Jamaica, your husband should seek Jamaican citizenship that would allow him to remain indefinitely in Jamaica. He can also seek unconditional landing status from the Jamaican authorities that would also allow him to remain in Jamaica. You should go ahead and apply for the non-immigrant visa if you wish to accompany your husband on a visit to the US and try to take as much documentation as possible to convince the consular officer that you do not wish to remain permanently in the US.
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; 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.