Family reunification – bring your family to America

Family reunification, photo copyright Michael Swan, CC.
Photo courtesy of Michael Swan, CC.

There are several different ways you can apply to have your family members come to the United States to join you after you have been resettled. This is called family reunification.

  • If you entered the United States as a refugee within the past 2 years or were granted asylee status within the past 2 years, you may apply for certain family members to obtain “derivative” refugee or asylee status. This means that they can become a refugee in the US because they are a part of your family. Only certain family members can become “derivative” refugees: your spouse (husband or wife) or your children (unmarried and under 21 when you first applied for asylum or refugee status).
  • You can also apply to have family members who are already identified as refugees join you in the US.
  • If you do not qualify for either of those programs and are now a US citizen, you can also complete a regular application to have your family immigrate to the US.

Who is eligible to apply for family reunification?

Family Reunification Program
In order to request to have your spouse or children join you in the USA under the Family Reunification Program, you must be what is called a principal refugee or asylee. This means that you were the person that received official refugee status and came to the US through the US Office of Resettlement. You must have entered the United States as a refugee within the past 2 years or have been granted asylum within the past 2 years.You must remain in refugee or asylee status or have become a lawful permanent resident (received a green card).

Affadavit of Relationship Program
You may also be eligible to file an Affidavit of Relationship for your spouse, child (unmarried, under 21), or parents. The Affidavit of Relationship is the form used to reunite refugees and asylees with close relatives who are already determined to be refugees but are outside the United States. The Affidavit of Relationship records information about family relationships. The Affidavit must be completed in order to begin the application process for relatives who may be eligible to enter the United States as refugees through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. You must complete this application within five years of coming to the US. For information on the current nationalities eligible to file, see the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration.

Petition for Alien Relative
Refugees with Permanent Resident Alien status or who have been in the US more than five years can apply on behalf of spouses, children, parents, and siblings using Form I-130. This process may take more time and be more difficult than the above two programs. Please see the USCIS Family of U.S. Citizens link for more information.

There is also a special program for family members of Iranians who are experiencing religious persecution.

Which family members are eligible to come to the US?

The family relationship had to exist before you came to the United States as a refugee or were granted asylum. This means:

  • If you want to complete papers to have your spouse come to the US, you had to be married before you came to the US as a refugee or were granted asylum in the US. Please visit the USCIS Refugee & Asylee Spouses link for more information.
  • Your child had to be conceived (this means the mother was already pregnant) or born before you entered as a refugee or were granted asylum. Please visit the USCIS Refugee & Asylee Children link for more information.
  • You remain in refugee or asylee status or have become a permanent resident (received a green card). If you have already become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, you cannot petition to obtain derivative refugee or asylee status for a relative. However you may still be able to help family immigrate to the United States.
  • Under the Affidavit of Relationship program, you can apply for your children, spouse, or parents to come to the US.

How do I apply for family reunification?

In order to apply for your spouse or children to come to the US as refugees, you must complete Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. This form is free to file. Here is the link to form I-730. You will have to include several important legal documents when you apply. Competing legal forms can be very difficult. The RCO recommends you ask for help from your resettlement agency or from a lawyer. Here is the link to the instructions for this form.

Where do I send my completed form for family reunification?

You must mail your completed application form and all of the required documents directly to USCIS. Depending on where you live, you will have to send your application to a different mailing address.

If you live in AK, AZ, CA, CO, Guam, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, ND, OH, OR, SD, UT, WA, WI or WY, mail your petition to:

Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87730
Lincoln, NE 68501-7730

If you live in AL, AR, CT, the District of Columbia, FL, GA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MS, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, SC, OK, PA, Puerto Rico, RI, TN, TX, VT, VA, the U.S. Virgin Islands or WV, mail your petition to:

Texas Service Center
PO Box 852824
Mesquite, TX 75185

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The RCO does not provide legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are looking for free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, please visit Lawhelp.org or email us for a referral at info@therefugeecenter.org.

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