Immigration

Humanitarian status for immigrants

If you fear or face violence, abuse or crime in your home country, you may qualify for humanitarian status that lets you live in the U.S. Learn more about qualifying for humanitarian statuses like asylum, U visas, T visas, the VAWA program and SIJS.

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If you are afraid of or a victim of violence, abuse or crime in your home country, you may qualify for humanitarian status that lets you stay in the U.S.

Getting humanitarian status may allow you to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the U.S. If you become an LPR, you get a permanent resident card (also known as a “green card”). Besides getting humanitarian status, there are other ways to get a green card. Learn about other ways to get a green card.

Types of humanitarian status include:

  • Asylum. Asylum is protection for persecuted immigrants who face or fear harm or abuse in their home country.
  • A U visa. U visas are for immigrant victims of serious crime.
  • A T visa. T visas are for immigrant victims of human trafficking.
  • The VAWA program. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a law that allows eligible survivors of domestic violence to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the U.S.
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). SIJS is for immigrant victims of child abuse.

Asylum

Asylum is protection for people who have faced persecution or fear persecution in the future. Persecution may include threats, jail time, physical attacks, emotional abuse, sexual violence, bribes, financial extortion or other harm or abuse in your home country due to your:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Political opinion
  • Nationality
  • Other social group (for example, being gay or a member of a certain tribe)

People who are persecuted or fear persecution in their country of citizenship can apply for asylum in the U.S. If the U.S. government approves your request for asylum, you can stay in the U.S. and obtain permission to work in the U.S.

Some persecuted people may not be eligible for asylum. You may not be eligible for asylum if you:

  • Pass on another opportunity for safety. You may not be eligible for asylum if you pass through another safe country before arriving in the U.S. and do not apply for asylum in the safe country. Also, you may not be eligible for asylum if you resettle in another country before arriving in the U.S.
  • Are applying again. You may not be eligible to apply again if your first asylum application was denied.
  • Have a history of being removed/deported from the U.S. You may not be eligible for asylum if you have a removal history in the U.S.
  • Are a persecutor. You are not eligible for U.S. asylum if you have a history of persecuting other people.
  • Are a threat. You are not eligible for asylum if you are considered a security or public health threat to the U.S, or if you have a history of engaging in or supporting terrorist activities.
  • Are inadmissible. You are not eligible for asylum if you are “inadmissible” (not legally allowed in the U.S.).
  • Are accused or convicted of serious crimes. You are not eligible for asylum if you have a history of committing certain serious crimes.

Applying for asylum is complicated. If you want to apply for asylum, you should talk to a lawyer. You can find nonprofits that offer free legal help in your area on this page under "Legal Help and Lawyers."

U visas for victims of serious crimes

If you are an immigrant victim of a serious crime, you may be eligible to get a U visa to stay in the U.S.

Getting a U visa lets immigrant victims of crime stay in the U.S. and apply for work permission, and it may open a path to apply for lawful permanent residency (LPR or green card). You may be eligible for a U visa if:

  • You are a victim of a serious crime like domestic violence, rape, felonious assault or others.
  • You suffer physically or mentally because of the crime.
  • You obtain a certification from law enforcement that states you helped in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

Applying for a U visa is complicated. If you want to apply for a U visa, you should talk to a lawyer. You can find nonprofits that offer free legal help in your area on this page under "Legal Help and Lawyers."

T visas for victims of human trafficking

Human trafficking happens when you are forced to work against your will because someone lies to you or threatens you. Human trafficking can occur in any industry, including restaurants, farms, house cleaning, construction, child care and sex work.

A T visa lets immigrant victims of human trafficking stay in the U.S. and apply for work permission, and it may let you apply for lawful permanent residency (LPR) and get your green card.

You may be eligible for a T visa if you:

  • Are or were a human trafficking victim. You may be eligible for a T visa if you are or were a human trafficking victim in the U.S.
  • Cooperate with a law enforcement agency. You may be eligible for a T visa if you cooperate with a law enforcement agency to investigate or prosecute the crime. You are not required to cooperate if you are under the age of 18 or unable to help due to physical or psychological trauma.

Applying for a T visa is complicated. If you want to apply for a T visa, you should talk to a lawyer. You can find nonprofits that offer free legal help in your area on this page under "Legal Help and Lawyers."

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a law that allows eligible survivors of domestic violence to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the U.S.

Eligible survivors can be any gender.

To be an eligible survivor, you must:

  • Be abused by a citizen or LPR. Your abuser must have been a U.S. citizen or LPR within the last 2 years.
  • Have a qualifying relationship with an abuser. Eligible survivors include the abuser’s spouse, former spouse, child or parent. To be eligible, all survivors must have a history of living with the abuser. 
  • Petition before the deadline. If your marriage to an abuser ends due to death or abuse-related divorce, you must petition for VAWA within 2 years.
  • Be of good moral character. To be eligible, you must be “a person of good moral character.” Having good moral character means that you meet the standard of average citizens in your community. All children younger than 14 years old are categorized as having good moral character.

Applying for VAWA is complicated. If you want to apply for VAWA, you should talk to a lawyer. You can find nonprofits that offer free legal help in your area on this page under "Legal Help and Lawyers."

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)

If you are an immigrant victim of child abuse, neglect or abandonment, you may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).

SIJS lets immigrant victims of child abuse stay in the U.S. and apply for work permission, and it may let you apply for lawful permanent residency (LPR) and get your green card.

To be eligible for SIJS, you must be:

  • Under age 21 and unmarried. You must be under 21 years old and cannot be married.
  • Unable to reunite with your family. You must be unable to reunite with your family due to abuse, neglect or abandonment.
  • Declared a dependent of a U.S. court or state agency. You must be declared a dependent of a U.S. court, or you must be legally committed to or put in the custody of a state agency or individual, and/or be eligible for long-term foster care.

Applying for SIJS is complicated. If you want to apply for SIJS, you should talk to a lawyer. You can find nonprofits that offer free legal help in your area on this page under "Legal Help and Lawyers."

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