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Ancestry Visas For The United States?

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Here’s an interesting idea for family-friendly immigration reform.

Ancestry Visas.

Could this concept work under U.S. permanent residency rules? I think so.

Of course, as a seasoned green card lawyer, I can attest the road forward will be a bumpy ride.

I suspect many bureaucratic officers would need to modify their outlook towards immigrants.

UK Ancestry Visa
UKVisaAndImmigration.co.uk, March 30, 2014

Ancestry Visas enable commonwealth nationals who have a grandparent who was born in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man to enter the UK for a period of five years. Commonwealth nationals with a grandparent born in the Republic of Ireland prior to 31 March 1922 are also eligible to apply for a UK Ancestry Visa.

But there’s more to these visas than simply a temporary visitor-type stay to live, work, or study.

After five years, you can either apply for a visa renewal or apply for settled status, which is roughly tantamount to permanent residence in the U.S.

The United Kingdom approach combines two separate routes to citizenship.

Generally, birthright citizenship is conferred upon individuals through their parents’ citizenship or their place of birth.

Under the Ancestry Right path, the two roads are merged. If a person is the grandchild of an individual born in the United Kingdom, they can embark on a three step process to U.K. citizenship.

There is no exact equivalent in U.S. immigration law. The closest measure is the Doctrine of Double Constructive Retention, a set of extremely convoluted laws practically impossible for for most immigrants seeking American citizenship.

Applying the United Kingdom model to our rules, this is how the Ancestry Visa process could work in the United States:

Step one would be the approval of a temporary Ancestry Visa good for five years.

Step two would be vastly different than any options provided under current U.S. green card laws.

At the end of the end of the authorized visa period, as noted above, an immigrant would have two options.

(a) The immigrant could apply for an extension of the temporary visa.

(b) If the immigrant applicant could show continuous residency during the five-year period and either current employment or past employment coupled with an active job search, he would be eligible to seek lawful permanent resident status.

Step three is citizenship. After just one year in lawful permanent resident status, the immigrant can file for naturalization.

Immigration law in the United States requires a five year wait for obtaining citizenship through a parent. (It seems unlikely U.S. immigration authorities would be willing to reduce the time for application eligibility to such a short time frame.)

In a nutshell, the United Kingdom paradigm would extend the number of paths to birthright citizenship from two to three:

  • Being born in the United States
  • Being born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent
  • Being born to U.S. citizen grandparent

In my view, Ancestry Visas provide a common sense method of reducing our immigration permanent residence and citizenship backlogs.

It would assist those applicants who often find out late in their adult years that they had a U.S. citizen grandparent – a grandparent who never conveyed that status to their child, the applicant’s parent – leading to a skipped generation of citizenship.

Ancestry Visas?

Let’s get started.

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