by Elizabeth R. Blandon

The journey to any immigration goal starts with a first step. Although victims know they need professional advice, they resist entering the law firm of an immigration attorney. Retelling their horrors seems like an impossible task.

As this article explains, immigration law allows temporary status, legal permanent residence (LPR), or expedited citizenship based on past harm. Whether this harm was suffered through abuse or persecution, an immigration professional can only help the foreigner if she is willing to help herself. Make the call. Tell the story. Allow the attorney to do the rest.

At Blandon Law, we assist victims of violence, abuse and persecution by providing confidential one-on-one consultations. It is understood, accepted and assumed that a victim will have a difficult time reliving these events. For that reason, there are no additional fees because a victim needs to schedule several consultations. The Firm also recommends mental health professionals to assist victims with the consequences of the harm they suffered. Finally, the Firm works hand in hand with these professionals to develop the evidence that will be used to obtain the immigration benefit.

Citizenship. A spouse or child who obtained LPR status because of battering or extreme cruelty can apply for citizenship after three years, not the usual five. This exception applies even if the “child” was 21 years old or older at the time s/he became a resident.

Legal Permanent Residence. Victims can obtain legal permanent residence through various laws. Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a spouse, parent or child who is subject to extreme cruelty or is battered may file a self-petition for LPR status. Abused spouses of Cubans – who obtain LPR through the Cuban Adjustment Act – need not live with their abusers if they are not yet divorced. They can also self-petition if the abuse was the cause for the divorce.

When a victim is being deported, she may also be eligible for residency by applying for cancellation of removal. The abuser must be a spouse or parent who is or was a citizen or LPR. The parent of a child who was victimized can also become a resident through cancellation.

Likewise, an asylee who has lived in the United States for one year can apply for LPR status. Several requirements for residency do not apply to victims and asylees. These include the affidavit of support and the requirement that the foreigner must maintain lawful presence prior to becoming a resident.

Temporary status and work authorization. Even victims who are not related to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents may be eligible for temporary status. A foreigner who is helping the law enforcement authorities with the prosecution of a crime including domestic violence is eligible for U status. Victims of human trafficking, where abuse is the daily occurrence, are eligible for T status.

A foreigner can also obtain work authorization and temporary status if they fled their home country because the government was unable or unwilling to protect her. Asylum can be applied for directly with the Citizenship and Immigration Service. Otherwise, if a foreigner is in the process of being removed from the United States, asylum is also a defense to that deportation. In many cases, victims refuse to apply for asylum because the horror of a denial and deportation is greater than the fear of remaining illegal. Perhaps the authorities were counting on this fear when they imposed an arbitrary one-year deadline for asylum. The fact that a victim does not wish to (or cannot muster the courage to) provide information relating to the persecution suffered is not an excuse for failing to file within one year after arrival.

This article is not legal advice. However if you have suffered severe emotional or physical abuse, or harm in your country of origin, please call the office to schedule a consultation.