Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
My husband is a pensioner in the United States (US) and England. We have three children together - two boys (twins) 12, and one girl, 8. How do we go about getting a visa or a green card, and if he has a stepchild age 24, can he apply for her also?
If your husband is a green-card holder or a US citizen he can apply for you and your children. As a green-card holder you and the under-21-year-old children would be in the F2A category, and it is currently taking about two and a half years for persons in that category to be processed for an interview. However, if your husband is a US citizen, you and the under-21-year-old children would be considered immediate relatives and the processing time would be nine months to a year.
If your husband is a US citizen and lives in Jamaica, the filing becomes a little more difficult. Over the past few years, the US embassy in Kingston has become very problematic in issuing permanent residency to beneficiaries' whose US citizen spouses or parents live in Jamaica. In addition to all the regular requirements for the visa, the embassy requires the US citizen petitioner to provide proof that they and the beneficiary will be migrating to the US upon receipt of the immigrant visa.
This provision can be burdensome to the family as you will have to provide, for example, documentary evidence of where you intend to live and work, that the children are registered in school, and or business has been established in the US - before the immigrant visa(s) will be issued.
If your husband is a green-card holder, he should be living in the US and it would be even more difficult for him to file for you and the children while living in Jamaica. If your husband was a US citizen when the children were born, he should have registered them at the US embassy as US citizens born abroad. The longer he takes to register the children and apply for US passports, the more difficult it becomes. There is also a residency requirement that the US citizen has to meet before he can confer US citizenship on his foreign-born children.
The fact that your husband is a pensioner may mean that he will not be able to show enough income to meet the income guidelines for a family of four. If that is the situation, he can use assets to make up the difference or have a joint sponsor do an affidavit of support to take care of the entire family.
If you and your husband were married before your 24-year-old daughter was 18, she can be petitioned for an immigrant visa by her stepfather. However, if the marriage took place after your daughter was 18, she would not be able to receive immigration benefits from her stepfather. You would have to petition for your daughter after you become a permanent resident. Even if your husband is able to file a petition for your 24-year-old daughter, she would not be on the same track as you and the minor children. As the adult, unmarried child of an American citizen, the processing time is currently seven years.
Applying for a visitor's visa as the wife or minor child of a permanent resident or US citizen is challenging. When you have a spouse or parent in the US, the embassy considers you to have more ties in the US than in Jamaica and the presumption of migration is greater than normal. It becomes a catch-22 situation where a person may not want to live in the US, they only want to visit, notwithstanding the presence of close family members in America and they are denied a US visa.
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. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org