If you are applying for, or receive, refugee or asylum status in the United States, you are probably concerned with what will happen to your family members – particularly if they were not persecuted, and do not have a separate claim for asylum or refugee status.
The good news is that, if you are married or have unmarried children under the age of 21, your spouse and children can be granted refugee or asylee status along with you, or after you, as your "derivatives." They will need to provide proof of their family relationship to you. Like you, they will be allowed to live and work in the United States, and to apply for lawful permanent residence within one year of obtaining their status.
As an asylee or refugee you will not, however, be able to obtain derivative status for more distant relatives, such as your parents, brothers, or sisters. If you would like to help more distant relatives such as these to immigrate to the U.S., you will need apply for U.S. citizenship as soon as possible after becoming a lawful permanent resident, as described under U.S. Citizenship & Naturalization. Then you can petition to have your parents, married children, children over age 21, and siblings immigrate to the United States. However, other than your parents, these relatives will face years-long waits before a green card (immigrant visa) becomes available to them.
If you’re a refugee traveling with your family, or an asylee whose family is already in the U.S. with you, simply including your family members’ names and information on your application for relief will be enough to get them granted refugee or asylee status along with you.
That means naming them on either Form I-590 (for refugees) or Form I-589 (for asylees). (You must name them whether or not they are currently with you or intend to come to the United States.) Be sure to also provide evidence of the family relationship, such as copies of your marriage certificate or your children’s birth certificates. If you do not have the actual certificates available, you may submit other forms of evidence, such as medical records or affidavits naming you as the person’s spouse or parent. See the instructions that come with the form for details.
If your spouse and children experienced separate persecution, then having them submit their own applications for refugee or asylum status is also possible. In fact, it may be a good idea, in case your application is denied. Then you would become your spouse or child’s derivative.
If you are traveling separately from your spouse and children when you are granted refugee status, or they are outside the U.S. when you are granted asylum, you will need to submit a separate application asking that they be allowed to join you. There’s a deadline for this. You must submit the application within two years of your obtaining your refugee or asylee status.
Your request must be made on Form I-730. See the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov for the form (available for free download) and for more information. Submit the form to a USCIS Service Center. There is no fee to submit this form.