“I filed a petition for my husband’s green card. The government sent a letter asking me to prove I am the same person named in my birth certificate. The last name does not match my last name growing up, which is listed on important papers like my social security card and drivers’ license. It’s the same last name of my father and all my siblings. My mother won’t talk about what happened. I don’t know what to do.”
(Submitted by Josephine P., Barstow, CA)
The basic answer is to explain the difference as best as possible. This means you will need to build your evidence piece-by-piece.
Let’s see if I can help you put together some ideas.
Before we start, I’d like to note that when the government asks this type of question, their main concern is whether you’re committing fraud and using someone else’s name.
Since there’s no fraud here, don’t worry about the letter sent to you. Just prove who you are and why you have two different last names.
Usually, this type of visa petition problem arises due to the naming customs and country birth regulations (or lack of such regulations) in the immigrant’s home country. So yours is a slightly out-of-the ordinary question.
I think other family members can help you demonstrate the uniqueness of your birth certificate situation.
You have siblings. Start there.
What do your brothers and sisters remember about your last name? Growing up, did they think you had the same last name as they did? If they never knew you were a half-sister, ask them to write a statement for you explaining what they remember.
Have far apart are you and your siblings? If you are close in age, perhaps you shared some school activities or community events together. Were you all given certificates with the same last name?
What about school records? What is your last name is listed in your school records? What is your name of your high school diploma? What about your school yearbooks?
Were you in any after-school or community clubs or sports teams? Were you a member of a Girls Scouts troop or similar organization?
You likely obtained your social security card before any of the other documents. Contact the social security office and try to obtain a copy of your original application, especially if your mother filled it out.
You did not mention if your step-father is still alive. I presume he is not or you could ask him what he knows. Maybe he is your biological father. Maybe he is not your birth father but knows why he and your mother decided to use his last name on your important papers (other than your birth certificate).
If your step-father is deceased, did he leave a will, trust, or other legal documents that names you as one of his children?
Was your mother ever married to the person named in your birth certificate? If she was, and then she later divorced him, perhaps their divorce papers will shed light on your birth situation.
Have you reached to any of your mother’s siblings and parents – your aunts, uncles, and grandparents? Perhaps they know the missing story about your birth certificate. If any of them have pertinent information, ask them also to write a statement for you.
Obtain as much as possible of this type of evidence, organize it as neat as possible with an index for the immigration officer to review.
Then, last but not least, write your own statement explaining everything you know about what happened.
Be sure to include this is one of those painful family issues that your mother refuses to talk about. It’s not unusual to want to avoid unpleasant memories, especially if your mother has strong moral or religious beliefs.
Her refusal to help you is an important part of your story, so don’t feel guilty about sharing her reluctance to talk to you about the discrepancy of your two last names.
Don’t skip this part.
The more evidence you can put together, the better you will be able to show why your birth certificate has a different last name than on your other documents.
As a general note, I want to remind you to keep an eye on the due date for your response. You do not want to miss the deadline.
If organizing these materials seems too difficult, you should consult with an attorney since you normally only get a few weeks to put your answers together.
I wish you the best.
Now go out and start compiling that evidence.
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