A. Victims of Crime, Trafficking, and Domestic Violence
A foreign national who has been a victim of a violent crime in the United States may be eligible for U nonimmigrant status, otherwise known as the U visa. A U visa applicant must meet all of the following requirements:
- You, or in some cases a family member, have been the victim of a crime that qualifies under the U visa category, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, or felonious assault
- You possess information about the crime
- You have been helpful to a law enforcement agency in investigating or prosecuting the crime
- You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime
Every U visa application must include a certification by an authorized official in a law enforcement agency confirming that the foreign national was a victim of a qualifying crime, possessed information about the crime, and was helpful in the investigation.
A foreign national who has been in U nonimmigrant status for four years may apply for a Green Card.
There are 10,000 U visas available per year.
This visa is available to foreign nationals who are in the United States as a result of being a victim of human trafficking, have agreed to help in the investigation or prosecution of the trafficking (or are under 18), and would suffer “extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm” if they were removed from the US.
A foreign national who was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of a US citizen or permanent resident family member may be eligible to file a self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act. The requirements are below:
- You were abused by your US citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent or US citizen child
- You resided with the abuser
- You are a person of good moral character
- If the abuser was your spouse, you are either still married or were divorced less than two years before filing the petition
A successful VAWA self-petitioner may then be able to apply for a Green Card.
B. Fleeing from harm
Refugees and asylees
Both refugees and asylees are individuals who are unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The difference between the two is that refugees are granted protection before entering the United States, while asylees receive protection once already inside the United States.
In order to come to the United States as a refugee, a person must file an application to the US government from outside the country, undergo extensive screening procedures, and secure the sponsorship of an individual or agency that will assure him or her employment and housing once he or she enters the US. The president designates a specific number of refugees to be admitted to the United States each year.
There are two different types of asylum applications: affirmative and defensive. An asylum-seeker who does not have an immigration court case against him may file an “affirmative” application, which will be reviewed at an asylum office. If the asylum-seeker is in immigration court, however, then he or she must file a “defensive” application as part of the immigration court proceedings. Generally, asylum applications must be filed within one year after the applicant has entered the United States.
Withholding of Removal and Convention Against Torture
An unsuccessful asylum-seeker may be able to qualify for one of two other forms of protection. Withholding of removal requires an applicant to show a “clear probability” that his life or freedom would be threatened because of his race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group if he were returned to his or her home country. Convention Against Torture (CAT) protection requires an applicant to show it is more likely than not that he will be tortured in his home country. Although the evidentiary bar is higher for both of these forms of protection than for asylum, they also do not have certain limitations (such as the requirement to file within one year of entry) that could cause some asylum-seekers to be unsuccessful. At the same time, a person granted withholding of removal or CAT protection receives fewer benefits than an asylee.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
The US government may grant temporary protection in the United States to citizens of a particular country facing severe conditions resulting from war, natural disaster, or other extraordinary circumstances. This protection is offered only to individuals who are already in the United States at the time their home country is designated for TPS, among other requirements. Those who receive Temporary Protected Status may not be deported and are eligible to apply for work and travel authorization. The Department of Homeland Security initially designates a given country for TPS for 6 to 18 months. The designation may be extended.
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