Informal adoptions of ‘given’ children are not valid for immigration purposes

DEAR Atty. Gurfinkel:
I am a US citizen (I got my green card through my US citizen husband), and I petitioned my mother.  But she was denied at the Embassy because the consul said I am not her daughter. During her medical exam at St. Luke’s, the doctors were questioning her how I could be her child, when she never gave birth.
In truth, I was “given” to my mother when I was a small child. She then went to Recto Street, and secured a birth certificate, and baptismal, listing her as my biological mother, and she recorded the birth certificate with the local civil registrar and the NSO. She has raised me since birth, and she is the only mother I have ever known. Is there anything I can do to get my mother’s case approved and have her visa issued?
Very truly yours,
Dear M.T.:
Unfortunately, unless your “mother” legally adopted you in court before your 16th birthday, you would not be her “child” for immigration purposes, and cannot petition her, as there is no “petitionable relationship” between you.
I know that in the Philippines, many kindhearted people raise children since birth, either because the child was “found” in the street, or was given to them by a friend, stranger, or relative. They then have a birth certificate prepared and recorded, listing them as the biological parent. Although they raise the child since birth, and love that child as if the child was their own flesh and blood, a “given” child (through an informal adoption), is NOT considered a “child” for immigration purposes. The “parent” may not petition that child, and in your case, you cannot petition your parent.
What should have happened is your mother had almost 16 years to go to court and adopt you. Had she done so, then you would have been considered her “child” for immigration purposes, and perhaps you could have petitioned her. But now you are past your 16th birthday, and even if she were to now go to court and adopt you, it wouldn’t help to create a “petitionable relationship” for immigration purposes.
But your situation provides a valuable lesson to other people who may not have formally adopted their given child, and continue to fool themselves by thinking that by having a Recto Street birth certificate recorded, they can fool the Embassy. But St. Lukes can do a pelvic exam of the “mother.” The Embassy could suggest that the parent and child have DNA blood testing, and otherwise find out the child was given. In addition, claiming a given child as a biological child could also be considered alien/human smuggling, if you try to include that child in any petition.
If you have a “given” child and are pursuing immigration benefits as though that child was your biological child, I would definitely advise you seek the advice of an attorney, who can evaluate your situation and tell you the correct and proper way to proceed.


Michael J. Gurfinkel is licensed, and an active member of the State Bar of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different. The information contained herein including testimonials, “Success Stories,” endorsements and re-enactments) is of a general nature, and is not intended to apply to any particular case, and does not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.
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