Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
My cousin was adopted by his aunt after the passing of his father who was murdered. She took both him and his brother to the States to reside with her. After the older brother turned 18 she sent him back to Jamaica. She, however, kept the younger one and looked about his green card. Then when he turned 18, she took him back to Jamaica as well. Now he has been in Jamaica for over a year and he is fearful that he might lose his 'green card'. I know there might be a possibility of this happening. I would just like to know what can be done to get him back into the States. Will he lose his green card because he has been in Jamaica so long?
When children are in the United States (US) and they are illegally present, they do not accrue unlawful presence until they are 18 and older.
In the case of your cousin who was adopted and filed for permanent residency by his adopted mother, he must have adjusted his status from a visitor to a green card holder as the child of an American citizen. You did not indicate whether the adopted mother kept the green card when she took your cousin back to Jamaica.
If your cousin has his green card he can travel back to the States by himself after age 18 without having to go to his adopted mother. However, if he has been in Jamaica for more than a year he has some challenges. As a green card holder he is supposed to live in the States. If a green card holder is outside the States for a year or more, they are deemed to have abandoned their residency and must file to return to the US as a returning resident (RR). That application has to be made at the US embassy in Kingston and attracts a filing fee.
To file as a RR, you must demonstrate your previous residence in the US and that you came to Jamaica temporarily and that the visit ended up being unexpectedly longer than planned.
If he does not have his green card, he must first file to replace the green card and, simultaneously file to return to the US as a RR with the same requirements as above. It is unfortunate that so many people use the green card as a tool of power - parents do this and so do husbands and wives.
It is important to keep copies of passport and green cards in a safe location or at least to record the numbers in the event that someone takes your travel documents.
Your cousin needs to act sooner rather than later because the longer he remains outside of the US the harder it will become for him to return - regardless of the reason why he left the States.
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@example.com