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Special Immigrants

Individuals applying for special immigrant status under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) special immigrant program are required to submit a petition to the USCIS describing his/her circumstances.  Some examples of special immigrants include:

Crime Victims

The U visa is available to immigrant victims of crimes and their families who assisted in a law enforcement investigation.  There are 10,000 available every year.  The prosecutor or police can certify helpfulness.

The Violence Against Women Act provides protection to abused spouses — men or women — and children, where the abuse was perpetrated by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.  The spouse or child who was subjected to battery or extreme cruelty can “self-petition” for a green card.  Alternatively, he or she can apply for special relief from deportation.

Cuban Adjustment Act

Citizens of Cuba can apply for green cards on their own, without the need for a family member or employer to sponsor them, after they have been in the United States for one year and a day.  They will need evidence of their time of entry, such as a parole card obtained at or after entry.  Green cards are available even if the Cuban has dual nationality with another country, like Spain.  Spouses of Cubans are also eligible for the benefit, even if they are citizens of a different country.

Asylum & Humanitarian Applications

This country has a tradition of being a safe haven for those who are persecuted on account of their religion, political opinion, race, nationality, or membership in a particular social group.  Asylum, refugee status, and withholding of removal are available to individuals who can demonstrate that they have been persecuted in the past or would face persecution in the future if they were to return to their home countries. You must apply for asylum within one year of your arrival into the United States with limited exceptions.

If conditions in your home country are particularly bad, you may be able to seek Temporary Protected Status. Current TPS designated countries are:

  • Haiti
  • Nicaragua
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Honduras
  • El Salvador

Waivers for Criminal History

Immigrants who have been convicted of certain crimes are eligible to apply for waivers in order to obtain their green cards or to avoid deportation.  In some cases, longtime permanent residents are placed in deportation proceedings due to their criminal history, and risk losing their green cards.  A well-prepared waiver package will document all of the factors in the immigrant’s favor.