Tue | Dec 1, 2020

Immigration Corner | Can I file for my stepdad?

Published:Tuesday | October 20, 2020 | 12:07 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

M y sister is a United States (US) citizen and she would like to file for her mother, but her mother is married to my sister’s stepfather. Can my sister put the husband on the filing? How long would it take for the filing to come through? Would both of them come through at the same time?

I am in the US on a student visa, with only two-three years left on it. If I find a husband here, how long after I am married would it take to get my green card?

Thank you for your time. I hope I will get an answer from you.

– J.C.

Dear J.C.,

A step-parent relationship exists for immigration purposes only if the marriage that created the relationship took place before the child was 18 years old. If this happens, the step-parent can receive immigration benefits from the stepchild, and the stepchild from the stepparent. Unfortunately, if the marriage occurs when the stepchild is 18 years of age or older – neither the step-parent nor the stepchild can file a petition for the other for permanent residency.

Your sister can file a petition for her mother, and the mother would be considered an immediate relative (IR). As an IR, the mother’s petition would not be placed in a preference category, but processed as quickly as US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State could process the file. Currently, the daughter-mother classification is not eligible for visa interview outside the United States because of a proclamation from the Trump Administration that suspends such interviews until December 31, 2020. The normal processing time for an IR parent is about a year. However, your sister should expect some delay due to the proclamation and backlogs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

If your sister’s mother is in the United States, and she entered lawfully and is present for 90 days or longer, your US citizen sister could file to change her mother’s status to that of a lawful permanent resident.

For her stepfather, if the marriage between him and her mother did take place before your sister was 18, she can handle her stepfather the same as her mother, as discussed above. She cannot, however, ‘add’ him to her mother’s filing – she must file a separate petition on his behalf (if he is eligible).

In your situation, if you marry a US citizen, your husband could file to change your status from a student to a green card holder. With the COVID-19 pandemic, all timelines are uncertain because all USCIS field offices were closed to in-person interviews for months. You can apply for a work permit as part of your application process, and permission to travel – if filed before your student visa expires. Pre-COVID-19, an adjustment of status would take four to six months for an interview.

If you marry a green card holder, you would be required to return to Jamaica to have your permanent resident interview. You should be careful if your marriage is to a green card holder, because once you leave the US for your visa interview, you would trigger a mandatory bar to returning. There are other technicalities of which you should be aware. I would suggest that when you decide to marry, that you consult with an immigration attorney to sort through the issues with you for your specific situation.

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 former special magistrate and hearing officer in Broward County, Florida. info@walkerhuntington.com