Can asylee bring parents to the U.S.?

There is a way for asylees to help parents enter the U.S. as refugees, if done within certain time limits.

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Question

I came to the U.S. from Mali six years ago but I got asylum two years ago (in 2012), because of the war in my country. My parents’ hometown in Mali was attacked and they had to flee temporarily to Mauritania. I wanted to bring them here to the U.S. to live with me, but people told me that I could petition only for my wife and kids, at least until I get my green card. Is this true?

Answer

Strictly speaking, you cannot yet “petition” for your parents. Nor would you be able to do so by simply getting a green card — you would still need to wait until you become a U.S. citizen.

However, there may still be a way for you to help your parents come to the U.S. before that time, assuming they have not yet returned to Mali.

You could bring this about by filing a Form DS-7656, Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) at an office of the International Rescue Committee or the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in the area where you live. (For a list of other agencies, see the “National Resettlement Agencies” page of the USA for UNHCR website.)

It is not surprising that you were not made aware of this option, because it was suspended between 2008 and 2012. Now that it is again available, you may have at least three years to file the AOR (since you have already lived as an asylee in the U.S. for two years and there is normally a five-year deadline).

But keep in mind that your current eligibility to file also depends on your nationality, and that the list of eligible nationalities changes every “fiscal year” (meaning every October). So it would be wise to file as soon as possible.

Be prepared to file the AOR with documents that prove that the people you are filing for are truly your parents. Depending on your age, this might include your birth certificate (or an equivalent court declaration), your parents' marriage certificate (or an equivalent court document), and school, medical, religious, or other official records confirming your relationship. In addition, you and your parents may be required to take a DNA test (at your own expense) to prove that you are related by blood.

Filing the AOR, however, is only the beginning of the process. The next step would be for your parents to apply for U.S. refugee status under a “family reunification” category called “Priority 3.” For this, they would be processed at a Resettlement Support Center or RSC (probably one located in Nairobi, Kenya).

To qualify for Priority 3, your parents would need to meet the definition of refugee, meaning that they would need to prove that they fled Mali because they were persecuted (or feared being persecuted) on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Presumably, they would be able to rely on the same persecution grounds that you used in obtaining your asylum. But you might want to consult an attorney to make sure.

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