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Immigration Corner | How can I retrieve my mother's documents?

Published:Tuesday | July 9, 2019 | 12:20 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I have an issue regarding my mother. My sister filed for her in 2006, and after spending 12 years in the United States, she was sent home without her resident card or social security card, which my sister admits that she has.

How can I retrieve those documents from my sister? My mother now has dementia.

Thanks for your assistance.


Dear CC,

I am sorry to hear this story. I often see situations like this happening to children/minors; it is rare with seniors, but not unheard of.

It appears that your mother never became a US citizen – you should try to confirm her US immigration status. If she is a permanent resident/green card holder and remains outside the United States for more than a year, she will be deemed to have abandoned her residency. She can file to replace her green card. The process will be easier if she has her Alien Registration number written down. The number should be in the passport she used to travel to the United States when she went there as a resident. It would also be on a number of documents – if she, or another family member has them in their possession.

Depending on her age, your mother might be required to travel to the United States to attend a fingerprint appointment in the state and local US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) district office that corresponds to the address on her replacement application. In order to board the plane for travel to the United States, your mother must have proof that she is eligible to travel. Without her physical green card, she would need a Transportation Letter from the US Embassy to permit her to travel to the United States.

Please look about your mother’s return to America before her being out for a year. If she is indeed out of the US for more than a year, then the process of returning is more difficult as she would have to apply to go back as a returning resident.

If your mother or another family member has document(s) with her social security number recorded that will help tremendously. Most times to conduct business, all a person needs is their number. If she does not, you would need to contact the Social Security Administration to retrieve the number and the physical card. If your mother is collecting or is eligible to collect social security, it is crucial that she is able to travel to the United States in order to begin or to continue receipt of her benefits.

It is important to report both these items as missing in the event they are used for nefarious purposes.

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.