Should I Naturalize Now and What Happens to My Adult Children

I am very aware of the dilemma faced by Filipinos who want to help their adult children legalize in the United States, but also the desire to be naturalized so they can help their spouse and minor children obtain permanent resident status now. This is a difficult choice, but what if all of them could be legalized immediately. Most people believe that they must choose between their minor children and adult children. That is not true in all cases.

Lawful permanent residents may file petitions for unmarried adult and minor children. If the child and petitioning parent were born in the Philippines, an unmarried minor child will have to wait about 5 to 7 years to obtain permanent resident status. If the unmarried adult child and petitioning parent were born in the Philippines, they face a waiting period of about 7 to 10 years.

Frequently, in an attempt to help their children, the Filipino parents file applications for naturalization. Some parents have been led to believe that the waiting time for the child of a U.S. citizen is less than that for the child of a permanent resident. While this is true for people from many countries, it is definitely not true for people with adult children from the Philippines.

When a person becomes a citizen, his unmarried minor children qualify for immediate relative status. There is no waiting time (beyond the INS processing delay) for immediate relatives. However, the approved petition for the citizen=s adult children are automatically converted to that of First Preference. The waiting period for First Preference from the Philippines is 18 to 22 years.

Many parents believe that the choice is whether they want to wait 7 to 10 years to obtain legal status for all their children together (provided that all their children remain unmarried) or whether they want their minor children and possible their spouse to immediately obtain legal status and wait 18 to 22 years to legalize their adult children. The choice is heartbreaking. But there is another choice. It is one that I successfully used many times.

The parent can pursue naturalization and provide immediate relative status for the unmarried minor child and spouse if needed. The adult unmarried or married child can pursue a different avenue to obtain a green card. The adult child, if eligible, can obtain permanent resident status through of an application for cancellation of removal. This application can only be presented to an immigration judge in the immigration court. Just a word of caution, since the preparation and the presentation of an approvable case is a very complex process, it should only be entrusted to an experienced immigration lawyer who is an expert in this area.

To be eligible for cancellation, the person must have been in the United States for at least 10 years, have good moral character and have a citizen or permanent resident parent, spouse or child who would experience extreme and exceptionally unusual hardship if the person were forced to leave the United States. It really takes an expert to analyze and present these issues before the immigration judge. If you are caught in the bind between helping your spouse and children whether minor and adult who are all in United States and you think your adult children might qualify for cancellation, you should seek the assistance of an experienced immigration practitioner.