Survivors & Their Families


Asylum Seekers

Men, women and children who are present in the United States and who suffered persecution or fear future persecution in their home countries may be eligible for asylum. To be eligible for this form of protection, the individual must have a reasonable fear of severe harm. 

  • Asylum seekers must show they suffered or will suffer persecution – a threat to their life or freedom.  
  • They must demonstrate that the persecution is because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
  • The persecution they fear must be from the government or from organizations or individuals the government is either unwilling or unable to control.
  • Generally, asylum seekers must apply within one year of arriving to the United States, although there are exceptions to this rule.
  • Spouses and unmarried children under age 21 may be included as dependents on an asylum application.
  • Those who receive asylum may apply for lawful permanent residency (“green cards”) after one year, and can ultimately gain citizenship.

The attorneys at Wilkes Legal, LLC can help you understand the requirements of asylum law and determine whether you are a candidate for this protection. We will listen to your story and research the conditions in your home country. We understand that talking about the experiences which lead you to flee can be difficult. We approach each client with sensitivity and compassion. If we accept your case, we will develop and document your asylum claim so that it tells your story in a clear and compelling way meeting the requirements of the law.

However, in some cases, individuals who face serious danger in their home countries may not be candidates for asylum, for example if they are fleeing general unrest and have not been individually targeted. We work to identify the best immigration solutions for our clients, and if asylum is not appropriate, we will explore other options.

Domestic Violence

Individuals who must rely on spouses, or in some cases parents or adult children, to achieve lawful permanent residency (obtain their “green cards”) may be vulnerable to physical and mental abuse. If abuse occurs, they may be hesitant to report the violence, or even leave the abuser, because of potential impacts on their immigration status. Fortunately, the Violence Against Women Act, known as VAWA, allows survivors, including women, men and children, to apply for their lawful permanent residency (“green cards”) independent of their abusive family member.

  •  Under VAWA, a survivor of domestic violence may “self-petition” for permanent residency (“green card”) without the assistance or support of the abuser.
  • Applicants for VAWA self-petitions must demonstrate that they meet the following criteria:
  1. Qualifying relationship to the abuser.
    1. a. Eligible survivors are spouses and children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, and parents of U.S. citizens. Eligible children must be unmarried and under 21. Children between 21 and 25 may qualify if they delayed filing because of abuse.           
  2. Battery or extreme mental cruelty.
  3. Married in good faith, if a spouse.
  4. Lived together.
  5. Are a person of good moral character.
  • A “self-petitioner” under VAWA maintains the same status he or she would have had if the abusive family member who is a citizen or “green card” holder had filed a petition on his or her behalf.
  • VAWA also provides protections for Conditional Permanent Resident spouses and children of abusive U.S. citizens. If approved under VAWA, they may remove the Conditions on their permanent residency status on their own.
  • VAWA additionally offers remedies for survivors who are in Removal Proceedings before an Immigration Judge in the form of “Special Rule Cancelation of Removal,” which also results in lawful permanent resident status.

No one should have to endure physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. The attorneys at Wilkes Legal, LLC can help you understand your options for advancing your immigration case while keeping yourself and your family members safe.

Crime Victims

United States law offers protection for immigrant victims of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement in criminal investigations and prosecutions. Such crime victims may be eligible for U Visas and their family members may be eligible for derivative U visas.

  •  U Visa applicants must demonstrate the following:
  1. They have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from having been a victim of qualifying criminal activity.
  2. They possess information about the criminal activity.
  3. They have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation and/or prosecution of the criminal activity.
  4. The criminal activity violated the laws of the U.S. or occurred in the U.S.
  •  U Visas are available for victims of the following crimes: Abduction, Abusive Sexual Contact, Being Held Hostage, Blackmail, Domestic Violence, Extortion, False Imprisonment, Felonious Assault, Female Genital Mutilation, Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting, Incest, Involuntary Servitude, Kidnapping, Manslaughter, Murder, Obstruction of Justice, Peonage, Perjury, Prostitution, Rape, Sexual Assault, Sexual Exploitation, Slave Trade, Stalking, Torture, Trafficking, Unlawful Criminal Restraint, Witness Tampering, attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above named crimes, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes.
  • Family members, both in the United States and abroad, can be derivate U visa recipients and ultimately may apply for permanent residency through this process.
  • U visas are valid for four years, and after three years the visa holder may file for lawful permanent residency.
  • U Visa applicants face significant backlogs and wait times. Eligible applicants and their families should expect to initially receive deferred action status.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has broad discretion to grant waivers for U Visa applicants facing inadmissibility grounds such as prior immigration violations and criminal convictions.

U visas are designed both to assist immigrant victims of crimes and to aid law enforcement. Wilkes Legal, LLC can help eligible crime victims obtain the required Law Enforcement Certification and build their cases, which requires establishing substantial physical or psychological abuse, helpfulness to law enforcement, and evidence of the criminal activity. We also assist family members of U Visa applicants here and abroad to apply for derivative U Visas. We assist our clients with filing for waivers, if necessary. We help those who are abroad navigate the process to obtain their visas through the U.S. consulate and enter the U.S. Our attorneys provide a safe environment where crime victims and their families can assess whether they may be candidates for U Visas, derivative U Visas, and eventual lawful permanent residency (“green cards.”)

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. It includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Although slavery has long been illegal in the United States, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) was passed to address unique challenges associated with this crime. TVPA created T Visas, a special category of non-immigrant visas offering protection for foreign-born survivors of human trafficking, and providing a tool for law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting perpetrators.

  • What is human trafficking? Human trafficking is a situation in which force, fraud or coercion is used to induce work. Trafficking occurs in almost every industry imaginable. Individuals are often lured into trafficking with false promises of employment and a better life. Traffickers often take advantage of poor, unemployed, and vulnerable men, women, and children who lack access to social safety nets.
  • To qualify for a T Visa, applicants must demonstrate the following:
  1. They have been a victim of severe trafficking.
  2. They are in the United Sates as a result of trafficking.
  3. They have already or will comply with reasonable requests for assistance from law enforcement. Survivors who experienced trafficking while under the age of 18 and those who are unable to cooperate with a law enforcement request due to physical or psychological trauma, however, may qualify for TVPA protection without meeting this requirement.
  4. They will suffer extreme hardship if removed from the United States.
  •  Close family members are eligible to apply for derivative status. The T Visa itself is valid for four years, and recipients may apply for lawful permanent residency (“green cards”) after three years.

Wilkes Legal helps survivors of human trafficking and their families through the process of applying for a T Visa and compiling necessary evidence. We assist survivors in filing reports of human trafficking, and accompany and support them through any law enforcement investigation and/or prosecution. We understand the many challenges survivors of human trafficking face. Every case at Wilkes Legal is handled with professionalism, patience, and compassion.

If you wish to apply for asylum; are a victim of domestic violence and need help applying for a green card; or are a survivor of human trafficking or a victim of a crime and want to see if you and your family are eligible for a T or U Visa, please contact the immigration lawyers at Wilkes Legal. We service clients in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.