“Congratulations on the birth of your new baby!”

Recently when I read a similar comment in the Sunday bulletin at my church, it reminded me of a small but important law in the U.S. immigration regulations about reentry permits for parents in U.S. lawful permanent resident (“LPR” or “green card”) status who give birth to a child during a temporary stay abroad. This law states that a child born abroad to an LPR mother must accompany either the LPR mother or LPR father on the parent’s first U.S. entry after the child’s birth (and before the child reaches its 2nd birthday). By following this procedure, the child is “waived” into the U.S. and the parents are able to submit the necessary paperwork to obtain the child’s green card.

Imagine this scenario: you and your spouse are abroad temporarily for the next two years and have received from your U.S. immigration counsel your duly executed reentry permits issued according to U.S. immigration law to maintain your green card status. During this time little “Junior” is born.

As parents of this new “bundle of joy”, your lives change drastically. For the next few months you are: ecstatic and at the same time sleep-deprived from round-the-clock feedings; receiving calls and visits from friends and relatives; inundated by doctor’s bills; and changing diapers as fast as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issue RFEs. The last thing you are thinking about in your “spare” time is: Hmm, are there any U.S. immigration law issues that I should be thinking about right now?

Suddenly your spouse travels to the U.S. for an unexpected business trip and not too long afterwards you and your spouse find yourselves taking a weekend visit to the U.S. (leaving the baby with his doting grandparents) to look at various places to live because your family plans to move back to the States sooner than you expected. At this point both you and your spouse have visited the U.S. after the birth of Junior and the “window of opportunity” to obtain a green card for him via the law mentioned above has closed. It does not matter that Junior was either too young or too sick, etc. to travel to the U.S. on these occasions. As the parents, one of you now must file an immigrant visa petition for him subject to any existing priority date backlogs.

This little law if not followed can have big consequences for little ones and their parents. LPRs abroad who dutifully apply for and obtain reentry permits of course want to eventually return to the U.S. to reside permanently with their children who were born abroad. So why not make the law relate to the child’s first visit regardless of how many times the parent has entered the U.S. on the reentry permit since its birth?

While this is one of those U.S. immigration laws that can leave you shaking your head and wringing your hands in frustration, the best advice is to communicate with your immigration counsel about any changes or plans you have before they happen. LPR parents abroad with reentry permits who are expecting a child: put your immigration attorney on your newborn baby announcement list serve and let us know your next U.S. travel plans after the baby is born. Not only do we like to hear such news, as many of us have experienced/are experiencing the joy of parenthood and can commiserate with how your lives have become even busier, there also are immigration-related reasons for keeping us in the loop as well that can result in making your lives and the lives of your children much simpler as you relocate back to the U.S.

Posted by: Cynthia Hemphill, Shareholder