The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) provides free legal help to some refugees and displaced people.
- IRAP helps some people find services and prepare refugee and visa applications.
- IRAP is not part of any government, IOM, or UNHCR.
- IRAP cannot grant refugee status or visas or speed up cases.
- IRAP cannot provide financial help, find or pay for housing, or find jobs.
- All of IRAP’s help is free. No one affiliated with IRAP has the right to ask you for money or any other service.
IRAP decides to help people based on their need and eligibility for immigration status. IRAP does not decide to help people based on any other social or political or religious criteria.
This website provides general information about legal processes available to some refugees. It is not meant as legal advice for individual applications.
If you are in a refugee emergency, we recommend that you contact the UNHCR office in the country where you live .
Some individuals in the United States can apply to have their relatives join them in the United States. This guide lists some of the applications for family reunification. It does not cover every program for family-based applications.
Eligibility for family reunification programs generally depends on:
- The legal status of the person in the United States.
- The relationship between the person in the United States and their relative.
It is also important to understand:
- All of the programs require documentation and other evidence to prove that the person in the U.S. is eligible to apply to reunite with their relative.
- Some programs have specific deadlines or fees.
- Many programs listed here have more requirements. This article does not list every requirement for every program.
- Some people could apply to more than one program to help the same relative.
- In many situations, there is no relevant program to help more distant relatives.
For each program, this guide links to other articles for more information.
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents in the United States
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can apply for some relatives to move to the United States. In some situations, relatives will have to wait for many years before they can move to the United States.
Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are also called green card holders. They can apply for their spouse and unmarried children to come to the United States.
U.S. citizens can apply for their spouse and children of any age or marital status. U.S. citizens over the age of 21 can also apply for their siblings and parents. Individuals file a form called I-130 to start this application process. More information about the I-130 process is here.
Finally, U.S. citizens can also apply for their fiancé to move to the United States, before they get married. They file a form called the I-129F to start this process. More information about the fiancé visa process is here.
U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents with Syrian and Iraqi relatives
An Iraqi or Syrian national with an approved I-130 (as described above) can also apply for refugee status in the United States. More information about the Direct Access Program for Iraqis and Syrians with approved I-130s is here.
Refugees and asylees in the United States
People who were resettled as refugees or who have approved asylum status in the United States can apply to reunite with their spouse. They can also apply to reunite with their children, depending on the age and marital status of the children. They can do so using a form called the I-730. There is a two-year deadline to apply for this program. More information about the I-730 process is here.
There is also another program for family members of people with refugee or asylum status, as well as Afghan and Iraqi SIVs. People can apply for their relatives if any of the three situations apply: 1) they are in refugee or asylum status (their asylum application has been approved); 2) they are a lawful permanent resident (received a green card) based on their previous refugee or asylum status; or 3) they are a lawful permanent resident (received a green card) based on their eligibility for the Afghan or Iraqi SIV program. They can apply for their spouse, their children in some situations, and their parents. The relatives outside the United States must also be refugees living outside their country of origin. The name of this is the Priority 3 program. The form to apply is the Affidavit of Relationship. There is a five-year deadline to apply for this program. More information about the Priority 3 process is here.
Iraqi and Afghan SIVs in the United States
Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients in the United States can apply for their spouse and children in some situations to join them. This is called “following to join” the SIV. More information is in this IRAP guide for relatives of SIV recipients. They can also submit P-3 applications for their parents if their parents are refugees, as described above.
Spouses, children, parents, and siblings of Iraqi SIVs or Iraqis who qualify for the Direct Access Program for U.S.-Affiliated Iraqis based on their employment may be eligible for the Direct Access Program for Iraqis with U.S affiliations. This is a refugee program that faces extremely long delays. More information about the Iraqi Direct Access Program is here.
Afghan parolees separated from their spouses and children
The Department of State has a website for Afghan Family Reunification. The website has a form for Afghans who were evacuated to the United States and who were granted parole and remain in their period of parole or were granted temporary protected status to request family reunification. The form is called the DS-4317 and is available here.
Iranian religious minorities with relatives in the United States
Individuals legally residing in the United States can help their Iranian religious minority relatives apply for refugee resettlement under the Lautenberg Program. The U.S.-based person – also called the “U.S. Tie” – must file an application at a refugee resettlement office. Their family member must be in Iran and have a valid passport, and eligible applicants will travel to Vienna for additional processing. More information about the Lautenberg Program is available here.
People from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras with relatives in the United States
The Central American Minors (CAM) program is a legal pathway for children and other family members facing persecution or danger in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to reunite with parents who are lawfully present in the United States. IRAP’s guide about this program is here.
Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans with relatives in the United States
Certain Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans can apply to come to the United States through a new parole program. To be eligible, applicants must be outside the United States, have a valid passport, and meet other requirements. They must also have a supporter in the United States, such as a relative, who is willing to initiate the application and provide financial assistance after arrival. More information about this program is available here.
Ukrainians with relatives in the United States
Certain Ukrainians who have been displaced by the Russian invasion can apply to come to the United States through the Uniting for Ukraine parole program. To be eligible, applicants must be outside the United States, have a valid passport, and meet other requirements. They must also have a supporter in the United States, such as a relative, who is willing to initiate the application and provide financial assistance after arrival. More information about this program is available here.
Asking for help
You or your relative may want to ask an immigration attorney for help with this process. Here are a few resources:
- Information about asking for help from IRAP is here.
- If you are in Jordan, you can ask for IRAP Jordan’s help using this form. If the form is closed, you can check back at a later date.
- A list of free immigration legal service providers in the United States is available here.