The “public charge” barrier allows US immigration authorities to deny immigration to anyone who they believe, based on the “totality of the circumstances” of an application, is likely to become dependent on public benefits for economic support. Certain categories of immigrants, however, are exempted by law from the public charge test, including people who fall within the following categories:

Refugees

Under US law, a refugee must:

  • be located abroad;
  • present a case of “special humanitarian concern”;
  • have been persecuted, or have a legitimate fear of persecution, based on their race, religion, nationality, political views, or membership in a particular group;
  • not be permanently resettled in a third country;
  • not have participated in the persecution of others; and
  • be otherwise admissible to the US.

To gain classification as a refugee, you must obtain a referral from the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

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U.S Refugees

Asylees

Asylum, popularly known as “political asylum”, is offered in a manner similar to refugee status; however, you must be located in the US to apply for political asylum. To apply, you must complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal within a year of your arrival in the US. Recently, the Trump Administration has been attempting to restrict access to asylum; nevertheless many applications are approved every year.

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T Visa Applicants and Holders

The T visa allows certain victims of human trafficking (such as sex trafficking and labor trafficking), to remain in the US for up to four years if they assist US law enforcement activties in investigating or prosecuting perpetrators. Certain family members may also be granted T visas, and adjustment of status to permanent resident is possible.

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Domestic Violence Survivors

Domestic Violence Survivors Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

You may be eligible for immigration benefits under VAWA if you have been abused or treated cruelly by:

  • A U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or former spouse;
  • A U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent; or
  • A U.S. citizen son or daughter.

You can apply for this status by filing a Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360).

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U Visa Applicants and Holders

The U visa is available to certain victims of criminal activity, if they have suffered abuse and if their presence assists US authorities in investigating and prosecuting these crimes (as a witness, for example). To apply for U visa status, you must submit Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status and Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification. Not all crime victims are eligible for this status.

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Immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan

Special Immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan

During the US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. government employed or otherwise worked with quite a number of Afghans and Iraqis as interpreters, translators, and other functions. Since some of these people’s lives were threatened because of their decision to work with the US government, Congress passed legislation designed to allow these people and their families to immigrate to the US.

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Immigrants Eligible Under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act of 1997 (NACARA)

NACARA allows people who entered the US prior to certain dates in 1990, and thereafter applied for asylum to immigrate to the US subject to certain other requirements. It operates as a kind of ‘amnesty’ for intending immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and the former Soviet bloc countries including the former USSR and Eastern Europe.

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Special Immigrant Juveniles

Special Immigrant Juveniles

This immigration category provides relief to juveniles who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent.

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Registry Applicants

“Registry applicants” are people who have applied for permanent residence based on their continuous presence in the US since January 1, 1972, subject to certain exceptions such as lack of good moral character.

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Contact an Immigration Lawyer for Assistance

If you fall within any of the foregoing categories, you will still have to meet the other requirements for immigration that apply to that particular category, and legal assistance is likely to be necessary. Nevertheless, the lack of a “public charge” barrier makes immigration significantly easier for many intending immigrants.

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