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Who Are the Principal Applicant and Derivative Applicant

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What does it mean to be the principal or the derivative applicant? Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, an immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our offices in St. Louis, Missouri, San Diego, and Washington D.C. We don't often make videos about just one or two words, but these two words are sort of important words for you to understand at USCIS, the principal applicant or the derivative applicant. 

Principal Applicant

A principal applicant is the person who benefits the most from an immigrant petition. In other words, in a marriage situation, one or the other of the spouses might be the principal applicant. Let's say that somebody's working on an H-1B, and they're applying for a green card. They would be the principal applicant if they were the ones who had an employer who sponsored them for the green card. 

Principal sort of means primary. It means number one, the main beneficiary. When filling out Form I-485, indicate that you're the principal applicant. You're seeking a lawful permanent resident status and immigrant visa based on employment.

Derivative Applicant

The derivative applicants would then be everyone who is attached to that principal application. They are usually the spouses or the children of the primary or principal beneficiary who's applying for a lawful permanent residence. The word derivative is a strange word. Derivative, as in deriving from, as in breaking off from. Derivatives are people who are related to the principal applicant and who are sort of riding the coattails. They're sort of following along with the person who is the principal applicant, the primary applicant.

We also see this a lot in the asylum context. In the asylum context or in the deportation context, you'll have the principal applicant, and that's sort of like, "Whose case is this? Whose case is this?" And then the derivatives are all the people that are underneath that application or included in that application. They might have separate applications of their own that are based on the principal's future approval, or they might be included in the application depending on which immigration benefits you're talking about. So, it's not that big of a deal for you to understand that, but I thought I'd make this short video to explain it because we've been having a few people ask us in Immigrant Home about principal versus derivative. 

What does that even mean? The principal is the primary person, and the derivative is the family members or immediate relatives—the spouse, child number one, child number two, and child number three, who follow along or are included in that application.

If you're thinking about filing an application with principal applicants and derivatives or just any kind of immigration benefit, give us a call at (314) 961-8200. You can also email us at [email protected]. Be sure to join us on our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home. 

If you like this video about principal and derivative applicants, we ask that you please share it on your socials, that you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and that you join us on Tuesdays and Thursdays when we have our immigration answers live show. We'll answer questions on topics like the immigrant petition, information about your visa category, immigrant visas, and what to do after getting an approved immigration petition. We're getting hundreds of people watching now and thousands of views after. People, for some reason, really like the show. Special guest Daniel Axelbaum is now back with me on the show, so that's making it extra fun. Hope y'all are well. Peace out.

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