“I am writing from Ireland. My mother was sponsored for a green card many years ago through her U.S. citizen sister, but she did not claim it.  She has since checked and discovered that there is still evidence of her green card at the State Department in Washington, D.C.  Can she claim the green card now, and if she did can she give it to me since I am still under 21 (I’m 18).  How long would all of this take?”

You don’t say how many years have passed since your mother declined the offer of a green card through her U.S. citizen sister. The time line is crucial for establishing whether she still has a claim for legal permanent residence here.

According to Bruce Morrison, prominent U.S. immigration attorney and author of the Morrison green card program back in the 1990s that granted nearly 50,000 visas for Irish citizens, an applicant who does not respond to an approved petition for permanent residence within one year of receiving such notice is subject to a procedure called termination of registration.

This termination can happen in three ways, according to the State Department – first, when the applicant does not respond to the appointment notice included with the immigrant visa appointment package, meaning that the applicant fails to appear for the final visa interview on the scheduled appointment date, and fails to take further action on the case within one year of the scheduled interview.

Second, termination can happen when an applicant is refused at the visa interview and fails to provide evidence to overcome the refusal within one year.  Lastly, termination can also occur when the applicant fails to comply with the follow-up instruction package for immigrant visa applicants within one year.

Did your mother ever receive a notice of termination of registration from the U.S. Embassy in Dublin?  If her case was subject to termination this notice should have been mailed to her.  Those who receive these notices are informed that they have one year in which they can have their cases reinstated if they so choose. 
If the State Department does not hear from an applicant during the year following receipt of the notice of termination, then the applicant can expect to receive a final notice of cancellation of registration. When this occurs, the applicant’s case is officially revoked, and all paperwork either destroyed or sent back to the applicant.

Your letter says that the State Department still has a record of your mother’s case, so perhaps she stands a chance at having her application reinstated.  You will definitely need to contact an immigration attorney as quickly as possible, as time is of the essence.

Your mother would not be able to “give” the green card to you, as you are not the intended original recipient.  She would have to go through the whole interview process, but because you are under 21 years of age you could also be included as part of her application.

The family fourth preference immigration category which your mother was sponsored under is reserved for siblings of U.S. citizens, their spouses and any children under 21 so if everything works out as far as reinstating the case, you’d be in luck. 

Again, a qualified immigration attorney will help you figure out the particulars of your mother’s case, so don’t delay.