–By Brandon Gillin
In certain limited circumstances, a “qualifying family member” of an asylee or refugee in the United States may be granted “accompanying” or “following-to-join” benefits (“benefits”) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) based upon the status of the principal asylee or refugee. Such benefits will not necessarily lead to the issuance of a visa, but they may. The following is a brief instructional guide on the basic requirements and process to obtain such benefits for qualifying family member(s):
The Basic Requirements:
- The principal asylee or refugee was granted asylum or refugee status within the past two years;
- The principal asylee or refugee was not previously granted derivative benefits from another asylee or refugee;
- The principal asylee or refugee was not admitted as a refugee or granted status as an asylee over two years ago (although this two-year requirement may, in very limited circumstances, be waived for humanitarian reasons);
- The principal asylee or refugee did not become naturalized as a U.S. citizen prior to filing the petition for the qualifying family member(s);
Who is a “Qualifying Family Member?”
- The principal asylee/refugee’s spouse or unmarried child(ren) under the age of 21 if that familial relationship existed when the principal asylee/refugee was granted such status, and continues to exist (a child unborn yet conceived at the time the principal was granted asylum or refugee status will be considered qualifying);
- Fill out USCIS form I-730;
- Along with the I-730, submit evidence that (a) you are eligible (that you are an asylee or refugee), and (b) that a familial relationship exists with the relative for whom you are petitioning (if you are petitioning for an adopted child or stepchild, certain additional proof of familial relationship must be submitted);
- If your relative is currently in the United States, submit a copy of both sides of his/her valid I-94.
As with all petitions to USCIS, great care must be taken to ensure that the information submitted is accurate, comprehensive, and timely. As an asylee or refugee petitioning for a relative, these concerns are especially pronounced because often times the petitioner’s perpetuation of his/her own status in the United States depends greatly on these concerns. The bottom line is: take this petition seriously, and you (and your relative) will very likely be successful.