Refugees & Asylum
Refugee status or asylum may be granted to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
Refugee status is a form of protection that may be granted to people who meet the definition of refugee and who are of special humanitarian concern to the United States. Refugees are generally people outside of their country who are unable or unwilling to return home because they fear serious harm.
For a legal definition of refugee, see section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). You may seek a referral for refugee status only from outside of the United States. For more information about refugees, see the “Refugees” section.
Asylum status is a form of protection available to people who:
- Meet the definition of refugee
- Are already in the United States
- Are seeking admission at a port of entry
You may apply for asylum in the United States regardless of your country of origin or your current immigration status.
Battered Spouse, Children & Parents
As a battered spouse, child or parent, you may file an immigrant visa petition under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA allows certain spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) to file a petition for themselves without the abuser’s knowledge. This will allow you to seek both safety and independence from the abuser. The provisions of VAWA apply equally to women and men. Your abuser will not be notified that you have filed for immigration benefits under VAWA.
Help is also available from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD). The hotline has information about shelters, mental heath care, legal advice and other types of assistance, including information about filing for immigration status. For more information, visit the National Domestic Violence website.
Those Eligible to File
- Spouse: You may file for yourself if you are, or were, the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You may also include on your petition your unmarried children who are under 21 if they have not filed for themselves.
- Parent: You may file for yourself if you are the parent of a child who has been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. You may include on your petition your children, including those who have not been abused, if they have not filed for themselves. You may also file if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen, and you have been abused by your U.S. citizen son or daughter.
- Child: You may file for yourself if you are an abused child under 21, unmarried and have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent. Your children may also be included on your petition. You may file for yourself as a child after age 21 but before age 25 if you can demonstrate that the abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing.
Temporary Protected Status
What is 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. USCIS may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States. Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.
The Secretary may designate a country for TPS due to the following temporary conditions in the country:
- Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war)
- An environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic
- Other extraordinary and temporary conditions
During a designated period, individuals who are TPS beneficiaries or who are found preliminarily eligible for TPS upon initial review of their cases (prima facie eligible):
- Are not removable from the United States
- Can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD)
- May be granted for travel authorization
Once granted TPS, an individual also cannot be detained by DHS on the basis of his or her immigration status in the United States.
TPS is a temporary benefit that 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
- Applying for any other immigration benefit or protection for which you may be eligible
PLEASE NOTE: To be granted any other immigration benefit you must still meet all the eligibility requirements for that particular benefit. An application for TPS does not affect an application for asylum or any other immigration benefit and vice versa. Denial of an application for asylum or any other immigration benefit does not affect your ability to register for TPS, although the grounds of denial of that application may also lead to denial of TPS.
Overview of NACARA 203·
Section 203 of NACARA (“NACARA 203”) applies to certain individuals from Guatemala, El Salvador, and the former Soviet bloc countries who entered the United States and applied for asylum by specified dates or registered for benefits under the settlement agreement in the class action lawsuit American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh, 760 F. Supp. 796 (N.D. Cal. 1991) (ABC)
After October 2000, NACARA also applied to qualified family members and to certain individuals who have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by a permanent resident, U.S. citizen, or by certain NACARA 203 beneficiaries.·
Section 203 of NACARA allows qualified individuals to apply for suspension of deportation or for cancellation of removal (“NACARA 203 relief”) under the standards similar to those in effect before the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
Suspension of Deportation and Special Rule Cancellation of Removal
These are types of relief from deportation (or removal). Traditionally, suspension of deportation and cancellation of removal have only been available to eligible individuals who are in deportation (or removal) proceedings in Immigration Court.
NACARA 203 allows certain individuals to apply for relief from USCIS even if they have not been placed in deportation (or removal) proceedings before an immigration judge.
If USCIS grants you relief under section 203 of NACARA, you will be a permanent resident and will obtain an I-551, Permanent Residence Card, commonly referred to as a “green card.” For more information on eligibility to apply for NACARA 203 benefits, see our NACARA: Eligibility to Apply page.
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