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Immigration Corner | Will I ever get back my green card?

Published:Tuesday | March 5, 2019 | 12:11 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Huntington,

I went to live in America as a green card holder when I was 10 years old. I spent one year there before my mom sent me back t0 my grandmother in Jamaica because I told her that my stepfather tried to molest me. When my grandmother asked my mother to send back my green card, she said she would do so when I turned 16. She never did.

We didn't hear from her again until a family member came to Jamaica and gave us her phone number. I was 21 years old at the time. I called her and she told me my green card had expired. She mailed it to me and told me to take it to the Embassy and have it renewed. I went to the Embassy and they told me I would have to have her file for me all over again.

I didn't understand what the green card meant. I turned it in at the Embassy, not realising that I should have written down the number that was on it. I would really like to go back to the US. I applied for a visa five times but was denied. I was told that I can apply for Returning Resident (RR) status. Although I don't have the expired green card, I have school records, medical report and my social security number to apply as a returning resident.

I have been held hostage by my mom who kept my green card until it expired. I did not abandon the US, because as a minor, I had no control over where I lived. I am now 39 years old and I just want to know if I still have a chance. I was reading where it says that it's going to cost almost US$700 to apply and if I am not approved, there is no refund. I am taking out a loan to pay for it. Do you think I have a chance of getting back my green card?


Dear JM,

What happened to you is extremely unfortunate on many levels, not this least of which is the lost of your US residency status.

Once a Green Card holder is outside the United States for a year or more (without a Re-Entry Permit), the US considers that they have abandoned their residency. They can apply for a Returning Resident status, but have to prove to the satisfaction of the US Embassy that they did not intentionally abandon their residency, and that their trip outside the US was not intended to last as long as it did.

In your situation you have been absent from the United States for 29 years and you are correct that as a minor, you did not have control over where you would reside. However, at age 18, you should have attempted to return to the United States. The fact that you appear to have surrendered your green card to the Embassy, further complicates your case. If you have in fact “turned in” your green card, you cannot apply for Returning Resident status. It is possible that when you first went to the Embassy in an attempt to renew the green card, that they made the determination that you did not qualify for RR status. It is a discretionary decision. Applying now for RR status would not be in your best interest, if you already surrendered your US residency or if the Embassy determined it abandoned.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq. is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a mediator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. info@walkerhuntington.com