Asylum is available for people who have come to the United States seeking protection from persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
A person may be eligible for asylum if they are afraid to return to their country because they were persecuted because of who they are and they fear being harmed if they go back. Applicants must be unwilling or unable to return to their country of origin.
Affirmative asylum is an application for asylum filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This process is available to asylum applicants who are not in removal proceedings or who are considered unaccompanied children (UAC). The applicant’s case is decided by an asylum officer at a USCIS Asylum Office. If the officer approves the applicant’s case, they will receive a grant of asylum. If the officer is unable to approve the application, the case will be referred to the immigration court and an Immigration Judge will review the case.
Defensive asylum is when the asylum application is decided with the Immigration Court. This process is only available to asylum applicants who are in removal proceedings. Applicants can also request withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture, If the judge denies asylum and orders an applicant’s removal, the applicant can then appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
A T visa is a petition for a nonimmigrant visa for immigrant victims of human trafficking in the U.S. It allows victims to seek shelter and start over in the U.S. This process is available to current and former victims of trafficking currently in the U.S. or its territories who comply with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking and shows that they would suffer extreme hardship if removed from the U.S.
Under federal law, a “severe form of trafficking in persons” is:
- Sex trafficking: When someone recruits, harbors, transports, provides, solicits, patronizes, or obtains a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, where the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or the person being induced to perform such act is under 18 years of age; or
- Labor trafficking: When someone recruits, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
A U visa is a petition for a nonimmigrant visa for immigrant victims of certain qualifying crimes that have occurred in the United States. To be eligible for a U visa, the applicant must have been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity, have suffered substantial physical or mental injury as a result of having been a victim of the criminal activity, have information about the criminal activity, you were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement, and the crime occurred in the United States.
In order to apply for a U visa, an applicant is required to have law enforcement sign a form certifying that that applicant was cooperative in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. There are only 10,000 U visas issued each fiscal year and there is a significant backlog. U visas take several years to receive a decision. After a U visa is approved, the beneficiary can apply for a green card after 3 years.
The following are the qualifying crimes:
- Abusive sexual contact
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Female genital mutilation
- Felonious assault
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting
- Involuntary servitude
- Obstruction of justice
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Slave trade
- Witness tampering
- Unlawful criminal restraint
- Other related crimes
These qualifying crimes also include attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of these and other related crimes.
Violence Against Women Act Visa
A Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) visa is a petition for an immigrant visa for certain victims of domestic violence. It enables victims to apply for permanent residency without their abuser knowing, allowing victims to find safety and independence from their abuser. This process is available to immigrant victims of domestic violence at the hands of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, as well as their unmarried children under 21. Victims must be the spouse, parent, or child of a U.S. citizen or the spouse or child of a legal permanent resident.
Cancellation of Removal
Cancellation of Removal is a form of relief available only to immigrants in removal proceedings who can demonstrate that they have been in the U.S. for a certain period of time, have good moral character, and their removal would cause extreme hardship to an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If successful, the applicant is granted lawful permanent status.