Can refugee help brother and sister come to the U.S.?

For a refugee, bringing siblings to the U.S. will be a multi-step process, if it's possible at all.

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Question

I am a Sudanese refugee in the United States. I am 21 years old, and came to the U.S. from Egypt over a year ago. My family was separated during the war. My mother fled to Chad with my little sister (who is 14 years old), and my father made it to Egypt, joining my half-brother (who is 24), one week after I left. I heard that it is possible to help my parents come to the U.S., but what about my brother and my sister? Can I help them too?

Answer

Perhaps, indirectly. It is true that you can help your parents come to the U.S. by filing a Form DS-7656, Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) with a resettlement agency in the area where you live. This would allow them to apply for refugee status for the purpose of family reunification. (For more information, see Nolo’s article, “How Can Refugee or Asylee Help Family Come to the U.S.?”)

To help your siblings, the most you could do is make sure that they are connected to either of your parents’ cases — which may be easier in the case of your sister (because she is under 21, assuming she is not married) but difficult in the case of your older brother.

Your sister could be included in either of your parent’s refugee applications: a simple matter of adding her name to their list of children on the relevant form (currently Form 590, Registration for Classification) as a Refugee. However, proving her relationship to your mother would probably be easier than proving her relationship to your father. In the former case, she could simply submit a birth certificate. In the latter case, she might also need to submit a marriage certificate. These documents may or may not be available depending on which area of Sudan you came from. But, ultimately, a DNA test might be required to prove the relationship.

If the parent’s application for refugee status is approved, your sister would automatically be treated as a “derivative”— which means that she would not even need to qualify as a refugee herself.

Your brother’s route (if any) would not be so straightforward. He could not be included directly on either of your parents’ refugee applications because he is over 21.

This means that he would need to establish his refugee status independently. However, he might be able to be processed as part of the same case as the parent you have in common (presumably your father) if they lived in the same household and shared resources back in Sudan, and if there are “exceptional and compelling humanitarian circumstances” to include him in the case.

The law does not clearly define what the expression “exceptional and compelling humanitarian cases” means. As you might imagine, this is a complicated and difficult standard to meet. But, basically, your brother might have a chance to meet the requirement if you think there is a very unique and important reason why he should be included (for example: if he is disabled and highly dependent on your father).

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