U.S. Visas

English

Immigrate

Follow-to-Join Refugees and Asylees

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Follow-to-Join Refugee Case Processing Now Centralized

Due to processing changes, follow-to-join refugee cases processed by Department of State embassies and consulates will only be processed at embassies or consulates offering immigrant visa services, or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) international field offices.  This will mean that cases currently being processed at posts that only adjudicate nonimmigrant visa applications will be transferred and follow-to-join refugee beneficiaries may need to travel to another country in order to be interviewed.  If your case is being transferred, you will be notified by the Department of State. 

The list of U.S. embassies and consulates below reflect some of the processing locations that will no longer process follow-to-join refugee cases, along with the newly designated embassy, consulate , or USCIS international field office to which the cases will be transferred.  For example, a follow-to-join refugee case arising in the consular district of the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, Mali, will now be processed at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. 

Previous Location

IV Designated Processing Location

Bamako, Mali

Dakar, Senegal

Banjul, The Gambia

Dakar, Senegal

Conakry, Guinea

Dakar, Senegal

Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Gaborone, Botswana

Johannesburg, South Africa (USCIS)

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Maputo, Mozambique

Johannesburg, South Africa (USCIS)

Mbabane, Swaziland

Johannesburg, South Africa (USCIS)

Nouakchott, Mauritania

Dakar, Senegal

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Singapore, Singapore

Bujumbura, Burundi

Nairobi, Kenya (USCIS)

N'Djamena, Chad

Yaoundé, Cameroon

Copenhagen, Denmark

Stockholm Sweden

Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

Yaoundé, Cameroon

Maseru, Lesotho

Johannesburg, South Africa (USCIS)

Oslo, Norway

Stockholm, Sweden

Lisbon, Portugal

Paris, France

Kampala, Uganda

Nairobi, Kenya (USCIS)

For a more complete list, you can visit Visa Issuing Posts in order to confirm whether an embassy or consulate nearest to your residence will process your follow-to-join refugee case. If the location provides “All” visa services, then your follow-to-join refugee case can be processed there, unless there is a USCIS international field office in that country.  Locations marked only as “NIV” will no longer process follow-to-join refugee cases.  Embassies or consulates that only offer nonimmigrant visa (NIV) services will note the designated processing post for immigrant visas (and follow-to-join refugees) on their websites https://www.usembassy.gov/.  

Please note that the change only impacts follow-to-join refugees.  Follow-to-join asylees can still be processed at locations offering just NIV services.

What if I was already interviewed?

If you have not been issued a boarding foil, then your case file will be transferred to the regional processing location noted above or on the Visa Issuing Posts page.  

How will I know if my case has been transferred?

The Department of State will notify you if your case is transferred to another location.

What if I choose to have my case transferred to another location, since I am unable to travel to this NEW designated location?

Follow-to-join refugee beneficiaries may request to process their cases at another immigrant visa processing U.S. embassy or consulate that is different than the one designated.  If you would like to have your case transferred to a different embassy, consulate, or USCIS international field office, then you must provide justification for the case transfer and show that you can legally be present in the country while your case is being processed.  You will first need to submit a request directly with the National Visa Center (NVC) through the Ask NVC online submission form.  You should select the “How can I request to have my interview scheduled at a different U.S. Embassy overseas?” in the question dropdown list.  In the box entitled “Additional comments or questions not in the above list”, you should include a justification for requesting the different location and note that it is in regards to “follow-to-join refugee centralization.”

Can I use my still valid medical exam at a new processing location?

Yes, the results of a still valid medical exam completed in another location can be transferred to another embassy, consulate, or USCIS international field office.

Spouse and Unmarried Minor Children Abroad Following to Join a Refugee or Asylee in the United States

Welcome to the webpage dedicated to follow-to-join refugee and asylee processing. You have come to this webpage if you have a USCIS approved I-730 petition, and you received an email or letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) telling you that your petition was sent overseas for processing. Find the subject in the list below and click to visit that section of the page.

Overview – Follow-to-Join Refugees and Asylees

Using a Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, a person who has been granted asylum or refugee status in the United States (the petitioner) may petition to have his or her spouse and/or unmarried children, who are called beneficiaries, join him or her in the United States. Overseas, the beneficiaries of Forms I-730 filed by asylees in the United States are known as follow-to-join asylees. Beneficiaries of Forms I-730 filed by refugees are known as follow-to-join refugees.

 

Follow-to-Join Overseas Processing Steps

1.  Petition Filing: An individual (petitioner) who was granted asylum in the United States as a principal asylee or who was resettled to the United States as a principal refugee can file an I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, within the first two years of arrival, with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), on behalf of his or her spouse and unmarried child(ren) (beneficiary). Further details on petition filing are available on the USCIS website under Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition.

2.  National Visa Center (NVC) Pre-Processing Case Assignment: If the beneficiary of an approved petition is located overseas, USCIS sends the approved Form I-730 petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). NVC then forwards the case file to the overseas location where the beneficiary will interview. NVC sends the petitioner a letter or email telling him/her which office will interview the beneficiary, how to get in touch with that office, and what steps to take next.   

3.  Beneficiary Interview: The beneficiary will be interviewed by either a Department of State consular officer or USCIS officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. This interview will confirm the beneficiary’s identity, claimed relationship to the petitioner, and eligibility to travel to the United States. During the interview process, the beneficiary must provide ink-free, digital fingerprint scans. The beneficiary interview requires careful preparation, including having all required original documents available for the interview. Some beneficiaries also must complete a medical examination prior to interview. See the “Documentation Needed for the Overseas Interview” section below for details on what to bring to the interview.

4.  Approval to Travel as a Follow-to-Join Refugee or Follow-to-Join Asylee: The interviewing officer will tell the beneficiary if he or she has been found eligible to travel to the United States.

5.  After Interview Processing: Some cases require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the beneficiary’s interview. Follow-to-join refugee beneficiaries, for example, undergo post-approval processing to arrange for sponsorship by a voluntary resettlement agency in the United States upon arrival. (NOTE: All follow-to-join refugee beneficiaries are required to have a sponsorship assurance from a resettlement agency before travel to the United States in order to receive refugee benefits.)

6.  Issuance of Boarding Foil and Travel Packet: An officer will place a boarding foil in the approved beneficiary’s passport or other travel document. The beneficiary also will receive a sealed envelope – called a "travel packet" – containing the documents for review by a DHS immigration official when the beneficiary enters the United States.

7.  Travel Arrangements: The beneficiary must enter the United States before the expiration date printed on the boarding foil. The officer who conducted the interview will advise the beneficiary about travel arrangements to the United States. Typically, follow-to-join asylee beneficiaries are instructed to make their own travel arrangements. Travel arrangements for follow-to-join refugee beneficiaries, on the other hand, are required to be arranged and managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Follow-to-join refugee beneficiaries who arrive in the United States without IOM coordination will not receive the reception and placement benefits to which they are entitled.

8.  Entering the United States: The boarding foil issued to the beneficiary allows him or her to travel to the U.S. port of entry to request permission to enter the United States. However, the boarding foil does not guarantee entry into the United States. The DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the U.S. port-of-entry have the authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. Upon arrival at the port-of-entry, the beneficiary must give the CBP officer his or her passport (or other travel document) with boarding foil and the unopened/sealed travel packet envelope. Beneficiaries should review important information about admission and entry requirements on the CBP website under Travel.

 

Overseas Interview Appointment Scheduling

All follow-to-join refugee and asylee beneficiaries must be interviewed by a USCIS officer or Department of State consular officer at a U.S. Embassy. When a case is ready for interview, the embassy will send the applicant or petitioner a letter with instructions explaining how to schedule an interview appointment. 

Failure by a beneficiary to schedule an interview appointment will result in processing delays. It is critical that the overseas office conducting the beneficiary interview has the current contact information – including physical and mailing addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses – for the petitioner, beneficiary, and if applicable, the representative of record on the case.

For interviews conducted by the Consular Section: Please follow the instructions the U.S. Embassy sends you and the guidance in the below section titled “Documentation Needed for the Overseas Interview.” You can also visit Interview Preparation – Interview Guidelines for general information on how to prepare for an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Important: Not all of the documents required for immigrant visa applicants are necessary for beneficiaries of I-730 petitions. The information on this link should be used as a general outline of what an interview is like.

For interviews conducted by an overseas USCIS office: After the interview is scheduled, the USCIS office will send the beneficiary a confirmation notice, which will outline the requirements that the beneficiary must fulfill before his or her interview.

 

Documentation Needed for the Overseas Interview

1.    The original and a photocopy of the following civil documents for each beneficiary, as applicable. These documents confirm the beneficiary’s identity and relationship to the petitioner in the United States:

    a. Birth certificate;

    b. Marriage certificate;

    c. Certified adoption decree;

    d. Divorce certificate
        (if needed to prove the legal termination of previous marriages);

    e. Death certificate
        (if needed to prove the legal termination of previous marriages); and

    f. Documentation of any legal name change.

    g. Six photographs of the beneficiary
        (see the photograph requirements); and

    h. A photocopy of the biographical data page of the beneficiary’s passport, if available.

Note: Documents written in a language other than English must be accompanied by a certified English translation. When the beneficiary is interviewed overseas, the interviewing officer may ask for additional information, such as photographs and other proof that the relationship with the U.S. petitioner is genuine. 

2.    One or more travel document(s), such as a passport, with a validity date at least six months beyond the beneficiary’s intended date of entry into the United States and/or picture identity card (for example, a refugee travel document).

3.    Other evidence of relationship between the beneficiary and petitioner, such as photographs, available school records, family correspondence, phone bills, documentation demonstrating financial support, and other proof that the relationship is genuine.

4.    Completed Medical Examination Report, which will be provided by an embassy-approved panel physician after the beneficiary has successfully completed a medical examination and vaccinations (see below). 

 

Medical Examination and Vaccination Requirements

Important Notice: Follow-to-join asylee beneficiaries must complete their medical exam before their interviews with a USCIS officer or Department of State consular officer, and they are responsible for paying the cost of the medical examination. Follow-to-join refugee beneficiaries typically are instructed to complete their medical exams after their interviews, and the U.S. Government pays all costs associated with the medical examination.

Before the issuance of a follow-to-join refugee or asylee boarding foil, every beneficiary, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination, which must be performed by an authorized panel physician.
See Medical Examination for more information. You can find a list of approved panel physicians by country on our Interview Preparation – Interview Guidelines web page. 

Follow-to-join refugee and asylee beneficiaries are encouraged to get certain vaccinations. Although vaccinations are not required prior to travel to the United States, they will be required when adjusting status to that of lawful permanent resident. Beneficiaries are therefore encouraged to fulfill these vaccination requirements at the time of the medical examination. See Vaccination Requirements for IV Applicants for the list of vaccinations.

 

How Long Will it Take to Process a Case Overseas?

Once a case has been transferred by NVC to the appropriate USCIS office or U.S. Embassy Consular Section, the length of time needed to complete the case varies according to its circumstances, and cannot be predicted with any accuracy. (It is important to provide correct postal addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses for both the petitioner and the beneficiary to the U.S. Embassy or USCIS office processing the case. See Case Inquiries below). Some cases require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the beneficiary’s interview.

Please visit My Case Status on the USCIS website to obtain a status on an I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. If the case has been transferred overseas by NVC, the petitioner or beneficiary may contact the USCIS office or U.S. embassy processing the case for information.

Ineligibilities

Certain conditions and activities may make the beneficiary ineligible for admission to the United States. If a beneficiary is ineligible, he or she will be informed by the USCIS officer or Department of State consular officer at the time of interview, and advised whether there is a waiver of ineligibility and what the waiver process is. Ineligible cases are returned to the USCIS Service Centers that initially approved them for further action.

Fees

There is no cost to file a Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. There is no cost to schedule a Form I-730 beneficiary interview. 

Case Inquiries

If petitioners, beneficiaries, or representatives have a question concerning a follow-to-join refugee or asylee case in progress at a USCIS office or U.S. Embassy, first contact the appropriate USCIS office or U.S. Embassy for status information. Case status information also is available on the USCIS website under My Case Status.

Before making an inquiry, petitioners and representatives should carefully review this website for answers to questions. Because of the volume of inquiries received, USCIS and the Department of State cannot promise an immediate reply to an inquiry.

Department of State contact information is available at Contact Us. USCIS contact information is available at Contact Us.