Do Spouse and Children of Filipino War Veterans Qualify for Immediate Citizenship?

Because I represent the Filipino war veterans in their national class action against Immigration & Naturalization Service, I receive letters and phone calls almost daily from wives and children of war veterans asking if they, too, can become naturalized because of their relationship to a war veteran. The answer to this question is generally no.

Many Filipino war veterans became eligible for United States Citizenship as a result of a law passed by Congress, making them eligible for citizenship as a result of their military service. However, this law did not extend eligibility to their spouses and children. Although laws creating such a benefit have been introduced in the past, there is currently no law which makes wives and children of Filipino war veterans eligible for U. S. citizenship based solely on their relationship to a war veteran.

Although a war veteran can petition his or her wife and children once he or she becomes naturalized, the waiting period for children over 21 is approximately 36 years and the waiting period for married children is approximately 30 years. Moreover, the war veteran would have to be alive in 30 to 36 years when the child becomes eligible to emigrate. Obviously, this is not a realistic solution in most cases.

One way around this unacceptably long waiting period is to have the war veteran first petition his or her spouse. Once the spouse becomes a lawful permanent resident, the spouse can petition the unmarried children. Although a lawful permanent residents cannot petition married children, unmarried children of lawful permanent residents will be eligible to immigrate in approximately 5 years rather than 30 years as would be the case if they were petitioned by a United States citizen.

Although this solution does not help married children, and also does not help families of deceased war veterans, it is certainly better than no solution at all. Congress will have to act before any more relief is available to war veterans and their families. Based on the present cool climate in Washington, such Legistration is not anticipated.