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Family separation is hard to handle, especially if you’re forced to be apart for years at a time. Because of this, many people applying for asylum are interested in how they can be re-united with their family as soon as possible, or how they can get the same asylum benefits for their family members.

Which Family Members Can Get Asylum Together?

You’re not able to seek asylum benefits on behalf of every relative, but you can get derivative asylum benefits or dependent benefits for your unmarried children under 21 and your spouse, as long as they are eligible for admission into the United States. There are certain caveats to this that we’ll look at a little bit later on.

Most of your other relatives are unable to get derivative asylum benefits through your application. Siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, and most other relatives are not able to receive derivative asylum benefits through you.

Derivative Asylum Applications

If you are granted asylum in the United States, you have two years to file for derivative asylum benefits for any unmarried children under 21 and your legally married spouse. You can do this regardless of where those families are in the world at the time of your application or the USCIS decision. If your children turn 21 after you’ve filed the application for their derivative benefits, they are still eligible for the benefits.

Derivative benefits don’t require those family members to have any fear of persecution. Because they are not the ones applying for the asylum benefits directly, they can receive benefits through your application if asylee status is granted.

Applying for Asylum Together

When your family members are already in the United States with you, there are two choices. It’s possible to apply together with your family members listed as your dependents on your application. This will only grant them asylee benefits if the main applicant (you) is granted asylum.

On the other hand, if your direct family members also suffered from persecution that meets the criteria for asylum, you may each file individually. In this case, you will have more chances of one of you getting asylum status that can then be used to grant derivative status to the others. Children granted asylee status may not get derivative status for their parents, so it may only be wise to have spouses file separate applications, not children.

As long as a decision has not been made by the USCIS, you may still add qualifying family members to your pending application for derivative benefits. Even if they enter the US after you’ve already applied, you may still include them in your application later in the process.

Applying for Asylum When You’re Apart

The most difficult part of filing for asylum can be when your family members are not in the United States with you. It’s not possible to apply for derivative asylum status for family members who are not within the US already. You must wait until asylee status is granted to you, then you will be able to apply for them to come in separately through a Petition for Asylee Relative. This still applies only to one legally married spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age when you file the forms.

Some legal pathways may be possible to reunite you with your family before your asylee status is granted, but they usually require some sort of extraordinary circumstance. One example is applying for humanitarian parole, although that may only be considered under specific circumstances such as serious health problems or concerns.

Asylees with US Citizenship

If you become an asylee in the United States, you can apply for a Green Card after one year and can apply to become a citizen four years after that. If you do successfully gain US citizenship, you may be able to bring some other family members to the US. You then have the option to file a petition on behalf of your parents, siblings, and even children who didn’t qualify for derivative asylum benefits.

A petition does not guarantee that these relatives will be able to come, but it does make them eligible for permanent residency through you.

Clear Up the Confusion

US asylum law is difficult when you’re not familiar with it. Working with an asylum attorney helps you understand what your options are, how you can get your family back together as soon as possible, and what might be the best way to apply for asylum. Fady Eskandar is a dedicated asylum and immigration attorney that can give your case individual attention and guide you through the asylum application process from start to finish.