The Ortegas were all U.S. citizens, from the grandfather, Joaquin Sr., to his son, Joaquin Jr., and Jr.’s wife, Laura, and their three kids, including 17-year-old Joaquin III. What made this family unique was that they were all U.S. citizens, but they were all born in, and still living in, the Dominican Republic.

Joaquin Jr. was able to obtain his U.S. citizenship through Joaquin Sr. via a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (“CRBA”), since his father had been born in the U.S. and lived there for a few years as an adult, serving in the U.S. Army, before he moved to the D.R. permanently and Joaquin Jr. was born there.

Fast forward a few decades, and Joaquin meets Laura, with whom he gets married and has three kids. One day they decided to apply for U.S. visas for their kids to show them a part of the family’s legacy and visit family, but the kids’ cases were denied; the consular official stated that because the parents were U.S. citizens, and therefore inferring “immigrant intent”. The officers then did the unthinkable and recommended that Joquin Jr. file for citizenship for the kids via the same method his father had used to get him his. The reason this made no sense was that Joaquin Jr. had never lived in the U.S., and for a U.S. citizen parent to get their child born abroad U.S. citizenship, they have to prove that they accumulated five years of physical presence in the U.S. before the child was born, with two of them having to be after the age of 14, and Joaquin Jr. did not meet that test.

Instead of simply giving the kids tourist visas, the consular official pushed through these CRBAs, and somehow they were approved. Suddenly Joaquin III and his two sisters were U.S. citizens, and this is how the situation continued for over a decade, the family all visiting the U.S. whenever they wanted and seeing family and entering as U.S. citizens. Until one day in late 2022, when Joaquin Jr. got an email saying that all three kids’ U.S. citizenship had been revoked following a retroactive review of the original CRBA cases and the correct determination that the consular official had erred in granting them U.S. citizenship, based on the fact that Joaquin Jr. had not met the physical residence test.

The Ortegas were lost. Suddenly the children could not travel, including one of the kids who had been getting medical treatment unavailable in the D.R. They tried to get appointments to apply for tourist visas, but the U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo has more than a one-year backlog of appointments. Their local lawyer told them they should call me, as I had assisted some of her other clients with other U.S. immigration matters, and I was on the clock to find a solution. To make things infinitely more complicated, Joaquin III was less than five months away from turning 18, which was to become crucial to the timing of the solution.

The goal became to recover U.S. citizenship for the kids and, if that was impossible, to get them tourist visas. Having Joaquin and Laura apply for permanent residence for the kids was not an option simply because they did not want to live in the U.S., So we came up with a two-tiered approach based on the lynchpin of the new approach, Joaquin Sr. Since Joaquin Sr. did pass the physical presence test, he was eligible to apply for the kids, through an N-600K, application for citizenship, since the father did not qualify. There were several catches in this situation, however. This process required the attendance of an interview in person at a USCIS office in the U.S. and could not be processed through the U.S. embassy, and to enter the U.S., the kids had to have travel documents. Since they had no U.S. passports anymore (they were canceled when their citizenship was revoked) and they had no visas, with a more than one-year waiting time to get them.

Add to this the most complicating factor: Joaquin III was to turn 18 at the end of March 2023, and the N-600K process must be COMPLETED before the applicant turn 18, and the normal processing time was 6-9 months, meaning he would not be able to finish the process in time. The only option was to try and to fight the battle on both fronts. SMA submitted three N-600K petitions, indicating the urgency based on the looming 18th birthday. As soon as it had receipt notices, it entered in as the attorney for the children on the consular front, making an expedited request to move up the interview in the Embassy based on the need to attend an interview within a few weeks, due to the pending N-600K petitions.

Within one day, the embassy appointments were moved up, and the kids obtained their visas a few days later. Steve Maggi then reached out to the corresponding USCIS Field Office and was not only able to get the appointment moved up for Joaquin III but also got the 3 cases joined. The Ortegas booked their flights on that Friday. They took a flight to the U.S. with their new visas, attending the interview on Monday, where they all had their U.S. citizenship granted (their newly stamped visas being canceled after one use when they got their citizenship).

In just a month, SMA helped the Ortega kids go from having lost their U.S. citizenship to receiving U.S. visas to enter the U.S. and then to re-obtained their citizenship well before Joaquin’s birthday. It was a case that appeared at first glance to be almost impossible and not only required a plan but collaboration with the U.S. Department of State and USCIS at the same time. It exemplified how difficult and complicated the U.S. immigration system is, how many moving parts there are, and how knowledge of the law and how to work on multiple fronts can help create minor miracles like the Ortegas…U.S. citizens again and forever. This is why I do what I do. The fight continues until there is justice.

Click to watch the video testimonial from the Ortega family. 

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