I am a Refugee: How Can I Help My Family Come to the U.S.?

I am a Refugee: How Can I Help My Family Come to the U.S.? If you are a refugee or asylee, you may be feeling overwhelmed trying to navigate the immigration system. It is hard to be in a new country, particularly when your loved ones have not been granted the same refugee status. The good news is that if you are at least 18 years old, there are a number of ways you can help your immediate family members come to or stay in the United States legally.

Option 1: File Form I-730

The first option is filing form I-730, which allows refugees and asylees to petition for family in the United States or abroad. In order to use this option, the following must be true:

● You have lived in the U.S. as a refugee or asylee for two years or less.

○ Having a green card will not impact your eligibility, but if you have already received citizenship, see options 2 and 4 instead.

○ If it has been more than two years, but you have a good reason for not being able to file the form during that time (for instance, due to serious illness), you may be able to have the deadline extended due to humanitarian circumstances.

● You are petitioning on behalf of your spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21.

○ Note that for this option, your relatives do not have to independently meet the qualifications for asylum as you have already been determined to meet the criteria, and they are considered your “derivatives.” However, they must still meet the criteria for refugee status, meaning that they have not persecuted anyone, committed a serious crime, and are not a security risk. If they have another reason for being inadmissible, such as having a communicable disease, they can use form I-602 to request a waiver.

Option 2: File an Affidavit of Relationship

This option is geared toward family reunification and allows refugees and asylees to help members of their immediate family who are still living abroad come to the United States. In order to qualify for this option, you must meet the following criteria:

● You have been living in the United States as a refugee or asylee for less than five years.

○ It is okay if you have been given a green card or received citizenship status.

● You come from one of the following countries (and your family is still located their): Afghanistan, Burma, Burundi, Colombia, Congo (Brazzaville), Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC/Kinshasa), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

● The eligible individuals include your spouse, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21.

○ In some cases, individuals who were not related to you may still qualify for eligibility if they lived in the same household and exceptional circumstances call for you to be reunited (for instance, if they were dependent on you for care).

○ Note that if you claim a blood relationship to these relatives, you may be required to prove it with DNA testing.

If you need help with an immigration matter, it can be overwhelming, and be hard to even know where to start looking for help or what options are available. Our attorneys at HAWM Law are ready, experienced and committed to helping immigrants at any stage of the US immigration process. You do not have to struggle through this process alone.

Option 3: File Form I-130

For green-card holders, this option can be more costly and time consuming than the other options listed. However, it can be a good option if the two-year filing deadline for the I-730 form has passed, or if you are trying to help your children who are over the age of 21. On the other hand, for citizens, this may be the fastest way to help your relatives. The following criteria apply:

● You were admitted to the United States as a refugee or asylee and now hold a green card.

● You are petitioning for the admission of your spouse or unmarried children of any age (including unmarried children over age 21).

● If you were admitted to the United States as a refugee or asylee and now have citizenship, you can file form I-130 for a broader category of relatives, including brothers and sisters.

Option 4: File Form I-129F

This option allows U.S. citizens to petition for their fiancé, spouse, or children, to come to the United States before applying for a green card.

Talk to an Immigration Lawyer

If you have questions about what immigration benefits and options are available to you and your family members, it can be helpful to talk to an attorney. Contact the experienced immigration attorneys at HAWM Law to schedule a free or low-cost consultation today.

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