The United States offers a variety of opportunities to come to the United States, be it for humanitarian reasons, diversity, study, or just travel.
Humanitarian visas in the United States represent a vital aspect of the country’s immigration policy, designed to offer protection and a safe haven to individuals from around the world facing extreme circumstances. These visas provide a legal way for people confronting emergencies, such as victims of natural disasters, war, or political oppression, to enter and reside in the U.S. under specific conditions. This program underscores America’s commitment to global humanitarian efforts.
Different Humanitarian Visa Programs
There are different types of humanitarian visa programs in the United States. Zepeda Law Firm, PLLC can help you understand and navigate the complexities of applying for the different types of humanitarian visas. Our offices are located in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as Southlake, Texas.
The different humanitarian visa programs are as follows:
- Temporary Protected Status (TPS): These visas are granted to individuals already in the U.S., allowing them to stay for a limited time due to disasters, oppression, emergency medical issues, etc. Examples may include but are not limited to, illness, disability, extreme living conditions, death in the family, or a critical need to travel to obtain medical treatment in a limited amount of time.
- Humanitarian Parole (Urgent humanitarian reason or specific public benefit): The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to use their discretion to parole any noncitizen applying for admission into the United States temporarily for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. When no other visa is available, but a foreign national has an urgent reason to visit the United States, a remedy known as humanitarian parole might help. However, keep in mind that the United States Customs and Immigrations Service (USCIS) grants humanitarian parole “sparingly”. It focuses on admitting foreign residents who cannot otherwise qualify for an immigrant visa to the U.S., but who merit entry for compelling reasons.
- Humanitarian Parole (Country-Specific Programs): There are special programs for nationals from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, with each having specific guidelines and requirements. The U.S. government, at times, will create humanitarian parole programs tailored to people whose countries are undergoing some sort of disaster or civil strife. The Uniting for Ukraine program is a current example. Learn more information about Parole.
- Parole in Place (PIP for family of military members): This is a parole specifically designed for certain family members (spouses, parents, and children under 21) of eligible U.S. armed forces. This parole allows those eligible to be paroled in place for a certain amount of time, usually a year, with renewals allowed every year. This process can help you apply for other immigration benefits such as work authorization, adjustment of status, and more. This parole allows you to gain that lawful entry that you may need to adjust your status. In order to apply for PIP, the service member must meet one of the following criteria:
- Be an active-duty member of the US armed forces
- A military veteran that was not dishonorably discharged (living or deceased)
- A member of the selected reserve of the read reserve
This application is a discretionary parole and requires that the spouse, parent, or child of the military member, in most cases, be admissible. There are exceptions. Please contact our office so that we can help assist you through the process.
- Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) (for Men too): Under this Act, you may be eligible to become a lawful permanent resident (get a Green Card) if you are the victim of battery or extreme cruelty committed by:
- A U.S. citizen spouse or former spouse; a U.S. citizen parent; a U.S. citizen son or daughter; a lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or former spouse; or, an LPR parent.
- You must be admissible
- If based on a spouse, you must either still be married, or divorced, or widowed for no more than two years.
- The U.S. citizen or LPR spouse lost their status prior to filing the VAWA petition, the loss of status had to have been due to the domestic violence.
Notes: Men: It is important to note that men can file a self-petition under VAWA. Our firm has represented many men in these circumstances. Remarriage: If your VAWA petition is pending, and you remarry before approval, your VAWA petition will be revoked. Living Abroad: You can file a petition under very specific exemptions. Please contact our office to see if you qualify.
- U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa for Victims of Crimes): U nonimmigrant status, commonly known as a U visa, is a type of humanitarian visa in the United States specifically designed to provide protection and assistance to victims of criminal activity. The U Visa is specific to the United States. It is designed for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The purpose of this visa is to encourage victims to report crimes and cooperate with law enforcement without fear of deportation. It provides legal status for up to four years, work authorization, and potential pathways to permanent residency. To qualify:
- Victim or indirect victim of a qualifying crime.
- Assist and be available to the law enforcement and government officials.
- If inadmissible, you must file a waiver if applicable.
- In certain jurisdictions (like DFW), you have to apply within two years of the case closing out.
Notes: Visa U allows for a waiver for certain inadmissibility issues that normally cannot be waived under most visas. Visa U offers waivers for claims to citizenship and permanent bars for example.
- T Nonimmigrant Status (T Visa for Victims of Human Trafficking): T nonimmigrant status, commonly known as a T visa, is a type of humanitarian visa in the United States specifically designed to provide protection and assistance to victims of human trafficking. To qualify for a T visa, an individual must, among other specific requirements, comply with reasonable requests for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking cases, unless they are under the age of 18 or unable to cooperate due to physical or psychological trauma. The individual requesting the visa needs to demonstrate that they would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if they were removed from the United States.T visa holders are allowed to stay in the United States for up to four years, with possible extensions in some circumstances, and are eligible for employment authorization. Victims need to file Form I-914, “Application for T Nonimmigrant Status,” along with substantial evidence to demonstrate that they meet all the eligibility requirements. In a world where this is becoming too common, we ask that if you need help or if you know someone who needs help, please contact our firm as soon as possible so that we can help you or someone you know.
- Refugee Admissions (from abroad): In order to obtain this type of visa, a referral needs to be made to the Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Humanitarian visas, often granted to individuals with refugee status, are a critical aspect of international protection for those facing imminent danger in their home country due to war, ethnic, religious or political persecution, or other forms of serious harm.
Keep in mind that the distinction between refugee admissions and asylum status below is that refugees are usually outside the United States when they are screened for resettlement, whereas asylum seekers submit their applications while physically present in the United States or at a U.S. port of entry. Otherwise, they appear to be of similar status for purposes of a humanitarian visa.
- Asylum Status (within the U.S.): This type of humanitarian visa is also for those seeking protection due to fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Humanitarian visas, often issued as a result of asylum status, are a critical component of international protection for individuals fleeing persecution, conflict, or severe human rights violations. These visas allow individuals to remain in a host country legally, offering them a safe haven from threats in their home countries. The decision is dependent on a thorough evaluation of each individual case and the policies of the host country. This process is a critical pathway for vulnerable individuals seeking safety and a new start in a foreign country. With some exceptions, you must apply for asylum within one year of entering the United States. There are exceptions such as if you were in legal status, were a minor when you entered, or even if you suffered from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
USCIS reviews the application and may request additional information or documentation if needed. The processing time is typically evaluated within 90 days, but can be longer due to high volumes, or if additional information is required. Applicants need to provide compelling evidence of their situation, such as medical reports, police records, or other relevant documents that support their claims. Applicants may be required to attend an interview and provide fingerprints and photos. The decision focuses on the urgency and the extent to which the applicant’s presence in the U.S. would serve a significant public interest or provide a humanitarian benefit.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) makes 55,000 immigrant visas available to citizens of countries with low immigration rates. This is also known as the “Green Card Lottery”. To qualify you must:
- Be selected in the lottery,
- Have an immediate visa available, and
- Be admissible.
You can check the DOS visa bulletin to see if your visa is available. Our firm can help you determine whether you qualify and assist you throughout the entire process. Please note that visas cannot be carried over into the next year so you must work with your attorney to make sure you meet that deadline.
F1 (Student Visa)
Interested in studying in the United States, this may be the visa for you. As an F1 applicant you must:
- You must be able to pay for school, whether that be through scholarships or out of pocket.
- Be accepted in a SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved school.
- Apply for a student (F or M category) visa.
|College/University High School Private elementary Seminary Conservatory Other
F-2 Visa (An F-1 Visa Dependent): As a child or spouse of an F1 recipient you may be eligible to apply for an F2 visa. The F2 recipient (spouse) cannot work but their F2 recipient child can attend public school from K-12.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program: This program allows eligible students to obtain temporary employment of up to 12 months, that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can obtain OPT before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). Please note that all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.
STEM OPT: If you have earned a degree in certain science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, you may apply for a 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT employment authorization.
B1/B2 (Business/Tourist Visa)
These are two of the most known non-immigrant visas for people who want to have a temporary visit to the United States.
B-1 Visa: This visa is also known as a business visa allows business professionals to meet with colleagues, attend conferences, and even negotiate a contract in the United States. The applicant must:
- Demonstrate that the purpose of their trip is truly business-related.
- They will only stay in the U.S. for a specific period.
- They can cover all expenses related to their trip and stay in the U.S.
- They have ties to their home country.
This visa does not offer a dependent visa for your family members.
B-2 Visa: This visa is also known as a tourist visa is a similar temporary visa like the B1 for people wanting to visit family members, go to a concert or go on vacation somewhere in the United States. The applicant must also:
- Have ties to their home country.
- Show that they will only be staying in the US for the allotted time.
These visas are not intended for those looking to study, work or permanently reside in the United States.
Contact Our Humanitarian Visa Attorneys Today
It is recommended that you seek legal advice from experienced immigration attorneys to navigate these different immigration processes. Individuals considering applying for a humanitarian visa or other type of visa should stay updated with the latest information from official sources like USCIS, as policies and procedures can change. Zepeda Law Firm can assist you in your immigration process. Careful consideration needs to be given to the specific criteria and documentation requirements as well. Contact Zepeda for an initial consultation to determine if you need assistance from our firm.