Marital Problems

"A friend of mine who is from Ireland married an American citizen seven years ago. She has a green card but not U.S. citizenship. I have urged her to apply for citizenship, but she has never gotten around to it. They have one child and are pretty miserable in their marriage. She would like to return to Ireland with her child, but realizes that is probably not likely to happen without his consent. If she is a U.S. citizen would she have a better chance of being able to do that? He has threatened that he can stop her from becoming a citizen, which I think is untrue. Am I correct?”

It sounds as if your friend has pretty significant problems, most of which are beyond the realm of this column. Needless to say, she’s going to need the advice of a good attorney to help her sort out the divorce/child custody issues that she faces.

As far as taking the child out of the country to do, that’s likely going to be very difficult if not impossible, unless the father provided his consent for doing so. From the information you’ve provided about their marital situation he doesn’t seem inclined to do this. A family law attorney, therefore, can best advise your friend about her child custody rights in this regard.

Her husband has threatened to stop her from becoming a citizen? That would be impossible to do, unless he has information that proves she received her permanent resident status fraudulently – i.e., if their marriage was a sham entered into solely for the purpose of securing a green card for her.

Given that they’ve been together for seven years and have a child together, that would be just about impossible to prove at this stage. Having said that, she should make it a top priority to pursue U.S. citizenship.

Presumably she’s had her green card for more than two years, and at this stage probably five years, which means that she’s immediately eligible to file the paperwork. Citizenship cases are being completed in approximately four months by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), so it won’t take long at all. Visit for further information and application forms.

Travel Authorization

“My aunt and uncle are coming to the U.S. for a summer trip. Do they have to obtain some sort of government approval for doing so before they arrive here? I have never heard of this before.”

Yes. As of the start of last year, all travelers to the U.S. using the visa waiver program – which allows natives of Ireland, among other countries, to come to the U.S. without a visa for up to 90 days – must obtain authorization from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The website is

ESTA is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel here under the waiver program. The approval is good for two years, and allows for multiple trips to the U.S. during that time.

Applications are submitted from the website. The applicant is asked standard biographical questions, and also needs to provide a passport number. Travel information is optional, as applicants do not need to have a particular date in mind for U.S. arrival.

Applicants will also need to answer yes or no questions about prior arrests, possible terrorist activity, prior U.S. visa denial and other issues.

The application takes no more than a few minutes to complete. It can also be done by a third party – i.e., yourself, on behalf of, say, your aunt and uncle. The website has all the information you’ll need.