Asylum and visas for victims of crimes and abuse
U.S. immigration law offers various forms of relief for victims who have suffered from persecution, violence, or abuse in their home country or in the U.S. These forms of relief are available to seek affirmatively before the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) or defensively in removal proceedings before the Immigration Court.
If you fear returning to your home country after having experienced harm or due to your country’s dangerous conditions, you may be eligible to apply for asylum. A grant of asylum in the United States allows individuals to lawfully remain in the U.S. to seek protection from persecution in their home country.
What is Persecution?
Persecution can take many forms, including physical violence, sexual abuse or domestic violence, rape, death threats, detention, extortion, and other types of violence from which the government in your country is unwilling or unable to offer you protection.
Also, the persecution that you fear experiencing in your country must be based on account of a distinct characteristic, such as your race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
If granted asylum, you will be eligible to apply for permanent residency in the U.S. after one year.
Visas for Victims of Violent Crimes
If you have been a victim of a violent crime in the United States, such as a serious assault, rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, kidnapping, or other serious crimes that have caused you to suffer substantial physical or psychological injury, you may be eligible to apply for a U nonimmigrant visa.
The crime must have been reported to law enforcement and you must have been helpful or likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. As a prerequisite to filing the U-visa application, you must obtain a certification of your helpfulness from either the Police Department that issued the report of the crime or from the District Attorney’s Office that prosecuted the crime.
After living in the U.S. on U-visa status for three years, you are eligible to apply for permanent residency.
Green Card for Abused Spouses, Children, and Parents
If you have been abused by a U.S. citizen spouse, parent, son, or daughter, you may be eligible to file an immigrant visa petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Abused spouses and children of U.S. permanent residents are also eligible to file this petition.
For each qualifying relationship, you must have resided with your abusive relative and you must be a person of good moral character. The abuse must also rise to the level of “battery or extreme cruelty,” which includes any act or threatened act of violence that results in physical or mental injury.
Once the immigrant visa petition is approved, you are immediately eligible to apply for permanent residency in the U.S.
To learn more about these humanitarian forms of immigration relief, please call our office for a consultation with one of our attorneys.