If you have filed for asylum with the USCIS, you know that it is taking years to have an interview. There is currently a backlog of over 250,000 cases with the Asylum Offices nationwide. Therefore, many life events may occur between the time you file your application for asylum and the time that you have your asylum interview, including marriage or divorce.
If I file for asylum and then get married before my interview, can I add my spouse to the application?
If you get married and want to add your spouse as a derivative to your application, and you haven’t had your interview or a decision has not yet been made, you can add your spouse by filing a statement indicating you want to add your spouse as a derivative. When you file this statement, you should also include a copy of your asylum application with your spouse’s information added, an application for your spouse which includes a photo, and evidence that you are married. The Service Center should then forward the file to the local Asylum Office that has your case, and your spouse will receive a biometrics appointment.
You can also add your spouse at the time of the interview, as long as your spouse appears at the interview with you and you submit the above documentation to the Asylum Officer at that time. There is even a possibility to add your spouse after your interview but before you receive a decision.
However, once you have a decision, you will have to petition for your spouse through a different application called an Asylee/Refugee Relative Petition.
If I file for asylum while married, and then get divorced, can I remove my spouse from my application?
If you divorce your spouse, your spouse is no longer eligible for asylum as your derivative. You can notify the Asylum Office that you are divorced if you wish, or you can let the Asylum Officer know at the time of your interview.
If my spouse files for asylum and includes me on the application, but then we get divorced, can I file my own application for asylum but keep my spouse’s priority date?
If your spouse is the principal asylum applicant and you are the derivative and you divorce your spouse, you can file your own application for asylum. Even though there is a one year filing deadline for asylum, getting a divorce from a principal applicant is considered a changed circumstance that would merit you filing your own application after the one-year deadline.
For more information on the one-year filing deadline, click here.
If you are the derivative and you are getting divorced, it is important to file an application as soon as possible if you also have a fear of persecution and qualify for asylum because of how long you will have to wait for an interview. When the Asylum Office learns that you and your spouse are divorced, you will be deleted from your spouse’s case. If you file for asylum after you are deleted from your spouse’s case, you will no longer have your spouse’s priority date, which is the date your spouse initially filed the application. In other words, if your spouse filed for asylum two years before you divorce, and then you file for asylum after the Asylum Office deletes you from your spouse’s case, you can still file for yourself but your priority date will be that new date that you file and not your spouse’s from two years ago. Asylum interviews are generally scheduled in the order that they are received and are taking years to be scheduled. If you don’t receive your ex-spouse’s priority date, you will not benefit from those two years that you already waited for an interview.
However, if you file for asylum before the Asylum Office knows that you are divorced, then you will not have yet been deleted from your ex-spouse’s case. In these circumstances, the Asylum Office will create a new case changing you from a dependent into a principal, and you will keep your ex-spouse’s priority date. This can make an enormous difference in the amount of time you will need to wait for an interview. Therefore, do not delay preparing and filing your asylum application if you are in the process of getting divorced and you are the derivative applicant.
Asylum is a complicated area of law and it is always good to speak to an experienced immigration attorney about your options.
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