Humanitarian is defined as 'concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare.' There are many types of immigration relief based on humanitarian principles. Humanitarian based relief provides protection to those in need of aide from natural disasters, those who suffer persecution at the hands of a foreign government, individuals displaced by civil war, and many other circumstances. While there are refugee programs established to help individuals who currently reside abroad, the information provided here is focused on humanitarian immigration relief that is available to immigrants who are present in the United States.

We hope you find the information here helpful, however, this is not an exhaustive list of all types of humanitarian immigration relief. If you have questions about what relief might be available to you, you should speak with a knowledgeable immigration attorney about your case.

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Asylum and Withholding of Removal

To be eligible for asylum, you must meet the definition of refugee according the the immigration laws of the United States. Refugee is defined as "any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." There are two ways to petition for asylum. First, you can petition for affirmative asylum within one year of your arrival in the United States or the expiration of your legal status. Second, you can file for defensive asylum in a deportation case. In an affirmative asylum case, you can first prosecute your case before the asylum office, whereas in a defensive case, your case will be heard by an immigration court.

Convention Against Torture

The United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) is an international human rights treaty that precludes signatories from perpetrating torture or sending an individual to a country where they are likely to be tortured. The legal standard for obtaining CAT is higher than for asylum. You must prove that it more likely than not that you will be tortured if sent to your home country, although you do not need to prove that the torture would be on account of a protected characteristic. There are advantages to a CAT petition. If you meet the legal standard relief is mandatory, and bars that could prevent you from obtaining asylum will not bar a CAT claim. You can file for CAT at the same time that you apply for asylum, either with USCIS in an affirmative petition or in immigration court. While a successful CAT claim will allow you to stay in the United States, it will not lead to permanent resident status.

U Visa and VAWA

A U Visa is a non immigrant visa that is granted to persons who have been the victim of crime in the United States, have suffered substantial mental or physical harm as a result, and have provided assistance to law enforcement in prosecuting or investigating the crime. The U Visa petitioner can also apply for a spouse or child. A U Visa petition is filed with USCIS, which sets aside 10,000 visas for this purpose per year. Due to the volume of U Visa applications, there is currently a long wait for U Visas to become available. VAWA, or the Violence Against Women Act, protects immigrants who have been the victim of abuse at the hands of a spouse in the United States. The petitioner must be the spouse of a citizen or permanent resident and have suffered battery or extreme cruelty to qualify for a VAWA petition.

Temporary Protected Status

Temporary protected status, or TPS, is granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service for nationals of countries that cannot return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. During the period of TPS, you can remain in the United States and obtain a work permit. While it does grant temporary benefits, TPS does not lead down a path to a green card or citizenship. In order to qualify for TPS, you must apply within the initial period during which your home country was designated by USCIS. Relatively minor criminal convictions, such as two convictions for reckless driving, will result in revocation or ineligibility for temporary protected status.

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