Iraqi refugees who have reached the United States have often had to leave other family members behind in Iraq or other nations like Syria and Jordan. Some of those family members may be able to travel to the U.S. through an SIV visa or refugee resettlement, but not all Iraqis will qualify for these programs. In those cases, the Iraqi refugee in the U.S. will be required to go through the U.S. immigration system to reunite his or her family.
If you are an Iraqi refugee in the U.S., your family immigration options will depend upon your status. If you are in refugee or asylee status, you will be able to only help a few family members immigrate to the U.S. However, as you go through the process from refugee to green card holder, and finally become a U.S. citizen, you will be able to bring more family members to the United States.
If you entered the United States as a refugee within the past two years or were granted asylee status within the last two years, you may petition for these family members to obtain refugee or asylee status:
The family relationship must have existed before you came to the U.S. as a refugee. Also, your children must have been under the age of 21 and unmarried at the time you first applied for refugee status or asylum. The process for applying for this immigration benefit is called “follow to join.”
You must have been the principal refugee or asylee on your own petition. For example, if you were granted refugee status through your brother’s petition, you are not the principal refugee and you cannot petition for other family members to join you. You must also remain in refugee or aslyee status or obtain a green card to file this type of family immigration petition. U.S. citizens cannot petition for derivative refugee or asylee status for family members.
To apply for follow to join benefits for your family members, you must file Form I-730 with the United States Citizenship (USCIS) and Immigration Services. A separate Form I-730 must be filed for each family member. It will take approximately 6 months for USCIS to process your petition, and then it will be sent to the U.S. embassy in the country where your relative is living. Your family will be given instructions on when and where their interview will take place. It is important that your family follow these instructions and appear at the interview. Once all processing is complete and your petition has been approved, your relatives will be allowed to join you in the United States.
This blog was crossposted with the permission of Wendy Whitt of Whitt Law Firm PLLC