Thousands of people from the Caribbean migrate to the USA annually as green card holders, and many become US citizens after being eligible.
Unfortunately, there are sometimes abuses because people don’t know their rights and responsibilities as green card holders and, eventually, US citizens.
The US recognises dual citizenship. This means, as a new US citizen you still keep your Caribbean nationality and can hold two passports – the US passport and your Caribbean country’s passport.
For people from the Caribbean living in the US who have children born in the US, these children are also Caribbean citizens, and their parents can apply for citizenship and passports for them in their respective Caribbean countries.
When US citizens petition for (commonly called “file for”) relatives, they must complete an affidavit of support. It really means the US citizen is signing an agreement with the US government that for five years after the relative comes to the US, the US citizen is financially responsible for the relative.
So, threatening to withdraw the affidavit after the relative comes to the USA is an empty threat.
A green card holder cannot lose that status simply because their US relative or green card holder’s relative petitioner threatens to write to the US immigration and say the green card should be revoked.
There are many cases where the US citizen relative petitioner or green card holder relative petitioner seeks to have total control over the affairs of the new green card holder with this threat.
The US immigration authorities do not act on the whims of persons with ill intent. If they think a claim is meritorious, they conduct their investigations and decide accordingly.
A green card holder is not required to remain at a specific address when he or she arrives in the USA. However, green card holders are required to advise the US immigration authorities of new permanent addresses within 10 days of moving.
To make it easy, there is even a form that can be completed online and uploaded on the immigration website, www.uscis.gov.
Green card holders can travel internationally, but if they spend more than one year abroad, it is construed that they have abandoned their lawful permanent resident status and they will have to show cause to the US immigration courts that they did not abandon their status when they seek to re-enter the USA.
If one needs to be out of the USA for a long period, it is very important to get immigration documentation that will allow easy re-entry.
When a green card holder is applying for their citizenship, the rule about travel is that there must have more time spent in the USA than outside the USA. If you spent more time out of the country, then the application will be rejected, and you will have to accrue the necessary time in the USA before you can re-apply.
The actual physical lawful permanent resident card is required to gain access to certain federal and or military facilities in the USA. This is so, especially for certain types of jobs, so it is always very useful to ask beforehand if proof of lawful status is required to enter the building.
When applying for certain jobs, after a green card holder gets past the preliminary stages, the actual green card might be requested by the employer. Of course, be cautious that this is a legitimate job offer before handing over this very sensitive information.
After you have been successful at your naturalisation interview, if you intend to travel soon, you need to let the USCIS officer know immediately because the green card is taken from you at your citizenship oath ceremony.
That means you will not have anything to show that you are legally allowed to re-enter the USA if you leave and did not get your US passport. When you tell the USCIS officer they will make a notation so that your citizenship oath ceremony is set for after your travel dates.
*This article does not constitute legal advice and is intended for informational purposes only.
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Nadine C Atkinson-Flowers is admitted to practice in the USA and Jamaica. Her US practice is in the area of immigration, while her Jamaican practice areas include immigration and general legal consultancy. She has been an attorney for over 15 years in Jamaica and has written articles for several legal publications. She is passionate about access to justice issues and volunteers with several legal, business, children and community service organisations in Jamaica and the US. She can be contacted at [email protected]