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Legal Information: Federal


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March 25, 2019

Can my family members benefit from my refugee status?

If you have already been granted refugee status, you may apply for derivative refugee benefits for your spouse or unmarried minor children if they are accompanying you or plan to join you. Derivative refugee benefits mean that your spouse and children may be granted refugee status based on your own refugee status.

To meet the definition of spouse, you need to be legally married according to your home country’s law. However, the U.S. will not recognize some legal marriages, even if those can be considered legal marriages in your home country (for example, polygamous marriages) Unmarried minor children under the age of 21 could include:

  • an adopted child if the adoption took place before the child turned 16 years old; and
  • a step-child who became your step-child before s/he turned 18.1

You can apply to bring your spouse and unmarried minor children to the U.S. within the first two years of being granted refugee status, which is known as sponsoring them.2 You may sponsor your family members whether they are in the U.S or overseas but the request may only be filed by the principal refugee.3

For more information and requirements about bringing over family members of refugees, please see the USCIS website’s page, Family of Refugees & Asylees.

1 INA § 101(b)(1)(E)
2 See USCIS website
3 8 CFR § 207.7(d)