Family is important, and it can be difficult to live far away from those you love. When you live far away, you may only be able to visit with certain family members one time in several months or even several years.
Fortunately, there can be ways for your family to reunite in the United States. However, your ability to help certain family members can depend on your status in the U.S.
Refugee or asylee
If you are a refugee or asylee, you may only be able to petition to bring your spouse and children to the U.S. To be able to petition for a family member, you must have entered the U.S. as a refugee in the last two years or been granted asylum within the last two years.
To qualify, your family relationship must have existed before you came to the U.S. This means that you were already married to your spouse or your child was already conceived before you came to the U.S. Your children must be unmarried and under age 21 when you first applied for asylum or refugee status.
You must also be a principal refugee or asylee. This means that you were granted your status directly, instead of through a relative.
If you are a permanent resident, which is sometimes called a Green Card holder, you may petition for your spouse and unmarried children under age 21 to immigrate. You can also petition for your unmarried children of any age to immigrate.
As visas become available, they will be distributed based on preset preference categories. The spouses and children of permanent residents fit into the “Second Preference” category.
If you are a U.S. citizen, you may have more opportunities to bring family members to the country. Your spouse, unmarried children under age 21 and parents count as immediate family members. Visas are always available for your immediate family members. This means that they do not need to wait in line for a visa.
You can petition for other family members to come to the U.S., but they will receive a visa based on the preset preference categories. Your unmarried children over age 21 are part of the “First Preference” category. Your married children of any age are part of the “Third Preference” category. Your brothers and sisters fit into the “Fourth Preference” category.
If you live in the U.S. away from your family, it is understandable that you would want to reunite with them. Helping your loved ones immigrate to the U.S. can be an achievable goal, but every situation can be different. Your status and your loved one’s relationship to you can both affect how easily you will be able to reach this goal.