U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate (RAIO) announced guidance recognizing that a spousal relationship may exist for the purpose of obtaining derivative refugee or asylee status, in certain circumstances, if there is evidence of an informal marriage. This guidance applies to the adjudication of a pending or newly filed Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal; Form I-590, Registration for Classification as Refugee; and Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. This guidance does not apply to any other form types, including Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

USCIS is returning to its prior interpretation of the place-of-celebration rule and will recognize in certain circumstances that a spousal relationship may be evidenced by an informal marriage for the purpose of adjudicating derivative refugee and asylee claims. Historically, USCIS has recognized informal marriages or camp marriages in certain circumstances for the purpose of refugee adjudications due to the unique and humanitarian nature of refugee status.

Effective immediately, USCIS officers will recognize a derivative refugee or asylee if there is evidence of an informal marriage where the spouses were unable to have their marriage legally recognized in the place of celebration because of their flight from persecution and circumstances beyond their control, or due to restrictive laws or practices in their country of origin or country of first asylum. The marriage must meet all other legal requirements, excepting the place of celebration rule, for the marriage to qualify for the benefit requested.

For Form I-589, Form I-590, and Form I-730, USCIS officers may recognize:

  • Informal marriage;
  • Informal divorce of an informal marriage; and
  • Informal marriage following the informal divorce of an informal marriage.

USCIS will also reconsider derivative spouse eligibility for a Form I-590 or Form I-730 that we denied solely because we did not find that evidence of an informal marriage was sufficient to establish a qualifying relationship under the previous guidance. (Note that the previous guidance did not apply to Form I-589.) Please see the instructions on How to Request Reconsideration for more information.

Posted in: Immigration