I want to live in Jamaica with my US citizen son

Published: Tuesday | December 17, 2013 Comments 0
Dahlia Walker-Huntington
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I am writing regarding my son who was born in the United States (US). Could you say how long I can keep him in Jamaica before taking him back to the States?

Also, what changes in the law would affect him staying in Jamaica since this is where I now reside.

I lived in the States for a while, but after my divorce, I returned to Jamaica to live but went back to have my son. Both parents are Jamaicans and we reside in Jamaica.

Three months after his birth, I came to Jamaica with him and got unconditional landing for him.

I am planning to return to the States soon, but my mother, who resides in the States, is worrying because of many tales that she has heard regarding persons being turned back and their children taken from them at immigration.

I would not like to lose my son. Can you please enlighten me as to how I can live in Jamaica with my son without facing any hassle from the US government?

- MW

Dear MW,

I have no evidence that children have been taken from their parents at ports of entry to the US because of immigration issues. Taking the child would occur if there are other custody issues involving the child and parents.

As a US citizen, you are allowed to remain outside of the States for as long as you wish and never lose your US citizenship. As the child of a Jamaican citizen, your US citizen child is entitled to Jamaican citizenship, and you should apply for same. You did not indicate whether you are a US citizen, permanent resident, or the holder of a non-immigrant visa.

If you are a US citizen, you, too, can remain out of the US for as long as you wish without concern. You are, however, obligated to file your personal income tax returns each year with the Internal Revenue Service on your worldwide income.

If you are a permanent resident (Green Card holder), you are supposed to live and work in the States. If you are not living in the US or have been out for six months or more, you can encounter secondary inspection during any trip to the States. This can occur even if you travel every few months but are only staying in the US for a few days or weeks at a time. If you are out of the US for six months or more, you are deemed to have abandoned your residency. Green Card holders are also required to file personal income tax returns on their worldwide income. As a Green Card holder, if you have to be outside the US for six months or more, you should apply for a re-entry permit.

If you are neither a US citizen nor Green Card holder and you had a child in the US, and Medicaid paid for the birth of your child, then you can be refused entry into the US at any time you are at the border of the US trying to enter. Even in those situations, the US government is not going to remove your child from you on the spot. You have the option of returning home with your child or having the child enter the US.

There are a lot of rumours about what can happen to a child, but at the end of the day, the child does not belong to the government of the US. The government in the US in the form of the State or local municipalities become involved in a child's life if the child has been abused, abandoned, or is being neglected. During such proceedings, the parents are offered legal counsel to ensure that their rights as well as the rights of the child are protected.

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. info@walkerhuntington.com.


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