Getting a Green Card as a Victim of a Crime

If you were the victim of a crime, it is worth your time to discuss with your immigration attorney the laws in place that may make you eligible to get a special visa. As your immigration attorney can explain, this can lead to becoming a permanent resident of the United States, also known as getting Green Card.

But simply being the victim of a crime is not enough to get a visa and eventual Green Card to remain legally in the United States. The special procedures in place apply only to victims of certain crimes, usually involving sexual assault, human trafficking, domestic violence or other violent crimes. Even if you are the victim of a certain crime, there are other requirements, such as assisting law enforcement’s investigation of the crime, which must be met in order for you to qualify. In some situations, your status as the victim of a crime may not necessarily “help” you get a Green Card, but it will allow you to use alternative application procedures.

There are two primary instances when being the victim of a crime will affect your ability to get a Green Card: as a holder of a T visa or U visa or through the use of an alternative Green Card application process.

Getting a Green Card with a T Visa

To be eligible for a Green Card as a holder of a T visa, the individual must:

  • Have been continuously present in the United States for three years (this time period can be less, but only if the individual was present in the United States for the duration of the criminal investigation or prosecution until completion),
  • Been of good moral character since obtaining a T visa (and until the Green Card is awarded),
  • When asked, provided all reasonable assistance to law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking,
  • Potentially suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if not allowed to stay in the United States, and
  • Be otherwise admissible to the United States.

Assuming these requirements are met, your immigration lawyer will file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status. In addition to filing this form, your immigration attorney (through you) will need to pay the appropriate fees and provide other accompanying forms and documents.

Once the documents are processed, the Green Card applicant will submit biometric information (fingerprints). After that, they will be called in for a personal interview at a US Citizenship and Immigration Services office. Upon completing interview, assuming everything has gone as planned, the you will be issued a Green Card.

Getting a Green Card with a U Visa

To be eligible for a Green Card as a holder of a U visa, the individual must:

  • Have been continuously present in the United States for three years and continue to stay in the United States while applying for a Green Card,
  • When asked, provided all reasonable assistance to law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the relevant crimes,
  • Have proven that staying in the United States is in the public interest or is warranted based on humanitarian grounds (such as keeping a family together), and
  • Be otherwise admissible to the United States.

Assuming these requirements are met, the your immigration counsel will file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status, as briefly described above or as discussed in more detail on the Form I-485 page.

Alternative Green Card Application Process: VAWA and Conditional Green Card Waiver

In certain situations, an individual may only be able to apply for an immigration benefit, such as a Green Card, with the help of another individual. When the other individual is unavailable or uncooperative, such as when they are acting as an abuser, it can make the immigration process impossible for the applicant. US law has provisions in place to accommodate these situations. The two common examples occur with a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner and when a spouse is applying to have the restrictions lifted on his or her conditional Green Card.

Violence Against Women Act

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a special law that allows the victims of domestic abuse to apply for a Green Card on their own if they are the child, parent or spouse of an abuser who is a US citizen or permanent resident. Despite its name, VAWA applies to victims who are both female and male.

To apply for a Green Card, the victim of domestic abuse must first file Form I-360, Petitioner for Widow(er)s, Amerasians, and Special Immigrants. The victim must also meet these requirements:

  • Suffered domestic abuse that includes include battery or extreme cruelty,
  • Has a qualifying relationship with the abuser, or is the parent or child of the abuser,
  • Lived or currently lives with the abuser, and
  • Is of good moral character.
The Conditional Green Card Waiver

In certain instances, an individual will obtain a Green Card through marriage. If the Green Card is obtained within two years of marriage, a conditional Green Card will be issued. This conditional Green Card is good for two years. At the end of this time period, the spouse must take steps to either leave the United States or turn the conditional Green Card into a permanent one by removing the conditional status.

Removing this conditional status on the Green Card usually involves the married couple jointly filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. However, in situations where the other spouse is being abusive, this joint filing is impossible or dangerous. In this situation, the applicant can request a waiver of this joint filing requirement at the same time they complete Form I-751.

Stand Up to Abuse and Protect Your Rights

Nobody plans on being a victim of any crime especially those offenses involving domestic violence. You may be eligible to secure legal status in the United States to remain with your family and continue the life you not only want but deserve. Do not delay. Do not ignore the reality you face. Contact and retain an immigration lawyer to protect you, your family and your future in the United States.

Call the New York immigration lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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