Special Relief Categories (Asylum, VAWA, T & U Visas, TPS)
People come to the United States seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to:
- Political Opinion
- Membership in a particular social group
Asylum is normally filed within 1 year of your arrival to the United States, and can be done outside of Immigration Court or during Immigration Court proceedings.
Employment Authorization: You may apply for employment authorization if 150 days have passed since you filed your complete asylum application, excluding any delays caused by you (such as a request to reschedule your interview) and no decision has been made on your application
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 allows certain spouses (whether men or women), children, and parents of U.S. citizens and spouses and children of lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders), who are battered or subject to extreme cruelty, to file a self-petition independently of the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent. This allows victims to seek both safety and independence from their abuser, who is not notified about the filing. The child of a battered spouse can be included without a separate petition. The spouse, child or parent must demonstrate that he or she resided with USC/LPR spouse/parents/son or daughter, was battered or subject to extreme cruelty and that they have good moral character. Additionally, the spouse must demonstrate that the marriage was entered in good faith.
Permanent Residence under VAWA: The purpose of the VAWA program is to allow victims the opportunity to “self-petition” or independently seek legal immigration status in the U.S. Victims of domestic violence, battery and extreme cruelty whose VAWA self-petitions are approved may file Adjustment of Status applications directly to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).
Pursuant to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, this act helps provide protection for victims who have suffered substantial physical and or mental abuse and who are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. It provides temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to 4 years. They must possess credible and reliable information establishing that he or she has knowledge of the details concerning the criminal activity. Also, they must help the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity and the criminal activity must have occurred in the U.S, which includes Indian country, U.S. military installations, U.S. territories or possessions. The criminal activity must have violated a U.S. federal law that provides for extraterritorial jurisdiction. Eligible criminal activities include: abduction, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, felonious assault, female genital mutilation, forced labor, fraud in foreign labor, contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnap assault, sexual contact, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, unlawful criminal restraint, witness tampering, or attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of these crimes.
Permanent Residence for U Visa Holders: Those who have been granted U nonimmigrant status may file for permanent residence (green card) after meeting certain requirements. To apply for a green card as a U nonimmigrant, you must meet the following conditions:
- You have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least 3 years since the first date of admission as a U nonimmigrant and continue to hold that status at the time of application for adjustment of status.
- You have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution
- You are not inadmissible under §212(a)(3)(E) of the Immigration Nationality Act
- You establish your presence in the United States is justified on humanitarian grounds, to ensure family unity or is in the public interest
In October 2000, Congress created the “T” nonimmigrant status by passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). The T nonimmigrant status (also known as the T visa) provides immigration protection to victims of severe forms of human trafficking. The T visa also allows victims to remain in the United States and assist federal authorities in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases. The legislation strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, and also offer protection to victims.
You and immediate family members may be eligible for a T visa if you:
- Are or were a victim of trafficking, as defined by law
- Are in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry due to trafficking·
- Comply with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking (or you are under the age of 18, or you are unable to cooperate due to physical or psychological trauma)
- Demonstrate that you would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if you were removed from the United States
- Are admissible to the United States. If not admissible, you may apply for a waiver.
Permanent Residence thru T Nonimmigrant Status: Those who have been granted T nonimmigrant status may file for a green card (permanent residence) after meeting certain requirements.
- You have been physically present in the United States for:
- A continuous period of at least 3 years since the first date of admission as a T-1 nonimmigrant
- A continuous period during the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking, and the Attorney General has determined the investigation or prosecution is complete, whichever period of time is less
- You have been a person of good moral character since first being admitted as a T-1 nonimmigrant and until the decision on your Form I-485
- You have complied with any reasonable request for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking since first being admitted as a T-1 nonimmigrant and until a decision on your Form I-485
- You would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal from the United States
- You are admissible to the United States as a permanent resident.
TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS (TPS)
The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.
The Secretary may designate a country for TPS due to the following temporary conditions in the country: ongoing armed conflict; an environmental disaster or an epidemic; or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.
Countries Currently Designated for TPS: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
Eligibility for TPS: You must be a national of a country designated for TPS; file during the open initial registration or re-registration period; have been continuously physically present in the United States since the effective date of the most recent designation date of your country; and have been continuously residing in the United States since the date specified for your country.
During a designated period, individuals who are TPS beneficiaries or who are found preliminarily eligible for TPS upon initial review of their cases: are not removable from the United States; can obtain an employment authorization document; and may be granted travel authorization in specific situations. Once you are granted TPS, you must re-register during each re-registration period to maintain TPS benefits. You can also apply for TPS for the first time during an extension of your country’s TPS designation period. If you qualify to file your initial TPS application late, you must still independently meet all the TPS eligibility requirements.
Other Benefits: TPS is a temporary benefit that alone does not lead to lawful permanent resident status or give any other immigration status. However, registration for TPS does not prevent you from: applying for nonimmigrant status; filing for adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition; or applying for any other immigration benefit or protection for which you may be eligible.
All cases are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If you require assistance with your case or want to see if you qualify for any of these Special Relief Categories, please contact our office for a consultation.