Can my Canadian child come back to the US if he leaves?
July 5, 2017 6:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm a Canadian living in the US with my American husband and our Canadian toddler. I just got my green card. We have been waiting for our son's US citizenship papers to be sent to us. Now there is some confusion about whether those papers were correctly filed and if his citizenship is on the way, or if we need to start from the beginning. In the meantime... my question is, can I travel to Canada (AND BACK!) with my toddler next week? We know we can go into Canada, but will he be able to come back? We will be calling immigration tomorrow, but in the meantime we are confused and worried. thank you.
posted by andreapandrea to Law & Government (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does your toddler only have a Canadian passport?
posted by halogen at 6:24 PM on July 5, 2017

Does your son have a passport from Canada? If so, you'll be fine.

If not: Is your U.S. citizen spouse going with you? If he is and if you have proof of your child's relationship to him (even if issued by Canada), I think that the border officer will let you reenter the United States.

If he is not, that complicates matters. Your son is a U.S. citizen but all U.S. citizens are supposed to travel with proof of citizenship or some way to verify it. Border Patrol may not accept your assertion that you and your husband are married and that your husband is a U.S. citizen and therefore so is his son. Do you have any kind of documentation of having applied for paperwork for your son?

If the latter paragraph applies and you must make this journey, I would bring (preferably) copies of your husband's passport, your child's birth certificate with both you and your husband's names on it, and even a copy of your marriage certificate if you can find it. I give your odds of total, easy success at 85% with those.

(FWIW, I have left the U.S. into Canada and returned with my son having only his birth certificate but before I had legally adopted. We are both U.S. citizens so that uncomplicates matters a bit but border officers in both directions barely looked at the papers. They were more concerned with making sure that I wasn't engaged in small-scale child trafficking which they checked by asking questions directly of my son, such as "is he your dad?" and "does your mother know where you are?")
posted by fireoyster at 6:28 PM on July 5, 2017

If you and your husband are traveling together, I'd chance it. If you're not, I'd consider delaying the trip.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:57 PM on July 5, 2017

Response by poster: I will be traveling alone with my son but will be bringing his (CDN) birth certificate, Canadian passport, our marriage certificate, a letter from my husband, a copy of HIS US passport, a video of him holding his passport giving me permission to travel. Also my Canadian passport and US green card. Surely this is enough?
posted by andreapandrea at 7:32 PM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not related to citizenship, but I always had my release to travel letter notarized.
posted by jennstra at 7:39 PM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Definitely talk with immigration. Both a friend and I have had children in (non-US, non-Canada) countries that were our legal residences but not our countries of citizenship, and in both cases we were told our children had to have their own country-of-residence passports to legally return to reside unless we wanted to apply for visas for them. Neither of us chanced it without the passport. So basically, you could get your son back into the US as a visitor on a Canadian passport, but not as a resident - does that make sense?

There may be some "I am a rational border agent and I get what's going on here" options but I don't fuck around with immigration these days.
posted by olinerd at 7:39 PM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Kindly disagree with fireoyster. Even with a Canadian passport your son wouldn't be travelling to the US as a visitor but trying to live there (with the rest of his family). Very different situation.

How is he in the US now - what is his present status?

I know you want answers now but you need to talk to immigration.

(Here on a visa with my Greencard hubby. My kid is here as my dependent.)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:30 PM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

"A child born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent acquires U.S. citizenship at birth under Section 301(g) of the INA provided the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for the time period required by the law applicable at the time of the child's birth. (For birth on or after November 14, 1986, a period of five years physical presence, two after the age of fourteen, is required. For birth between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, a period of ten years, five after the age of fourteen, is required for physical presence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child.)"

Assuming your husband meets the residency requirements, your child is already a U.S. citizen, so the issue here is how easily U.S. citizens can enter the U.S. without a U.S. passport. Can you apply for a same-day U.S. passport at a passport center?
posted by deadweightloss at 5:13 AM on July 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Pondering this a bit, a couple of other things to consider:

- How are you entering/exiting? By air or vehicle? It is possible an airline wouldn't let your son board your Canada-US flight without a residency visa if you don't have a return trip booked. (It's also possible they won't notice) I would call your airline if that's relevant.

- It is technically law that a US citizen must enter the US on a US passport. (See: "Most U.S. nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States.") That's part of the reason we got my Aussie/US daughter a US passport immediately when we lived in Australia, since we planned a US trip to see family when she was 5 months old, and we didn't want any trouble at the border since it would be obvious that she was my daughter and I was American. For various reasons we couldn't apply for her US passport until ~4 weeks before we were due to leave on the trip, but we requested an expedited temporary passport and that came through very quickly.

I'm really curious how you got him here in the first place, if he was born in Canada and you only then came here (?). Is he on some sort of visa? What was your experience at the border then, and what documentation did you use?
posted by olinerd at 9:51 AM on July 6, 2017

I'm a little confused here -- is your son also your husband's biological son, or is he adopted/in the process of being adopted (or is your husband a stepdad and not going to be adopting at all)? I think that will make a big difference in both citizenship and all the reentry stuff. What is your son's current authorization/paperwork to be in the U.S., and can you bring that with you?
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:42 AM on July 6, 2017

Response by poster: Hi everyone, so in case this ever applies to anyone else ever, this is what I found out. For the curious I will answer some of the above questions here.

Our son was born (to us) in Canada when we lived in Canada. We didn't know we were supposed to get him his American citizenship at birth (If you are reading this and this could apply to you, FILL OUT THE FORM!) because we had a brand new baby on our hands and nobody told us we needed to do that.

We traveled to the States to visit family, then my husband got a job here so we decided to stay and I got a green card and applied for US citizenship for my son (an N-600). Fast forward 8 months and I have my green card and we are still waiting for my son's paperwork to be finished.

After many hours of calling around, the border tells us just to bring the N-600 paper with his receipt number from immigration with his Canadian passport to the airport and it will be fine. They know it takes forever. We are having immigration re-send us a new paper. It will get here in time. Everything will be fine.

Thank you for your help
posted by andreapandrea at 8:50 PM on July 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

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