Sun | Jun 20, 2021

Filing for my children

Published:Tuesday | June 19, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I am seeking your advice regarding immigration procedures for my son and daughter. My daughter has been in the United States since March of this year on a visitor's visa and I would like to get her to stay here. My son is 17 and has a 10-year visitor's visa and intends to enrol in college here for September or January. I am a green card holder five years now and do not really know much about that, so can you give me some advice on this matter?

I patiently await your response.

- PM

Dear PM,

As a holder of a green card for five years you have met one of the eligibility requirements for applying for United States (US) citizenship. If you have never been outside the US for six months or more, have been in the US more than you have been absent over the past five years, and have been a person of good, moral character (i.e. no arrests/convictions; filed taxes and paid child support obligations) you are qualified to file for citizenship. If you have been arrested and/or convicted of a crime in the US you should consult with an immigration lawyer and take to the lawyer your arrest and court documents. Applying for US citizenship with arrests/convictions can lead to denial of the application and or referral for deportation.

Processing US citizenship can take United States Citizenship & Immigration Services up to two years; however, the reality is that the average application takes four to six months to be processed.

You did not mention how old your daughter is, but if she is also a minor, once you are a US citizen you can file to change both of their status from visitors or students (F1 visa) to permanent residents. When your son is ready for college, you can apply for a change of status to that of a student for him after he has been in the US for more than 30 days. However, it may be in your best interest to wait until you are a citizen (assuming you meet the above criteria) to file to change his status to a green card holder before he enrols in college. If your daughter is still in high school she can continue to attend until she changes her status to a green card holder.

The US allows minors to attend school up to high school, even if they are not permanent residents or US citizens. This has allowed many children who arrive in the US on visitor's visas to remain beyond their allotted time and attend school, and it also allows those who entered the country illegally to attend school. However, once these children graduate from high school they are unable to continue to college and or work because they are illegally in the US.

On June 15, 2012 the Obama administration announced a plan of deferred action for hundreds of thousands of young people who find themselves unable to move forward after high school. While the implementation of this plan has not been announced, it covers the following persons:

1. Must have come to the US under age 16

2. Lived in the US for at least five years and was present in the US on June 15, 2012

3. Be currently enrolled in school, graduated from high school or obtained a GED, or honourably discharged from the US Coast Guard or Armed Forces

4. Have not been convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanour or multiple misdemeanours

5. Under age 30

This plan will allow qualified persons, on a case by case basis, to remain in the US without fear of deportation for two years at a time and receive work authorisation. At this time, this is not a pathway to a green card or citizenship and should not be viewed as residency. It is welcome relief for hundreds of thousands of young people, but it will not cover everybody.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises law in Florida in the areas of immigration, family, criminal & personal injury law. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. Email: