Family reunification – bring your family to the USA

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.

man holding child at airport
Photo courtesy of Michael Swan

NOTICE: The increase of fees that was due to take place on October 2, 2020, has been stopped by a US court decision. But please check fees before sending in your application.

April 22, 2020 – temporary order

The US administration has issued an executive order to stop new immigration visas. The order applies to people outside of the USA. Medical workers, agricultural workers and some other workers will still be allowed to get visas. Spouses and children under age 21 of US citizens will still be allowed to get visas. People who already have immigrant visas or valid travel documents can still come. SIVs and members of the US Armed Forces can still come.

How does family reunification work?

  • 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 USA 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).
  • 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 USA.

Who is eligible to apply for family reunification?

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 USA 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).

Affidavit 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 US Refugee Admissions Program. You must complete this application within five years of coming to the USA.

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 read the USCIS Family of US Citizens page 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 USA?

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 page 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 page 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, or Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. This form is free to file. You will have to include several important legal documents when you apply. When you download Form I-730, be sure also to read the official USCIS Form I-730 information and the instructions for filing Form I-730.

Completing legal forms can be very difficult. Ask for help from your resettlement agency or find a lawyer or legal organization that helps immigrants. Learn more about reunification in several languages through IRAP.

The information on this page comes from the US Department of State, USCIS, and other trusted sources. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are looking for a free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, we can help you find free and low-cost legal services.