Transgender immigrants travel to the United States for many reasons. Some individuals arrive in response to an offer of employment. Others fell in love with a U.S. citizen and are coming on a K-1 fiancé(e) visa to marry them and begin a new life that includes a family and future U.S. citizenship.
Many also come to escape persecution back home or were brought here as part of a human trafficking operation. A significant number of them did not obtain a visa before arriving and now live here as undocumented immigrants, worried about discovery and deportation.
No matter what your situation may be, there are legally recognized ways for you to receive status in the United States.
Marriage to a U.S. Citizen
Although transgender people have a long history of being denied marriage rights and having their relationships dismissed from a legal perspective, the June 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriages made the right to marry gender-blind. Transgender individuals may now:
- Petition for a foreign-born fiancé(e) or spouse;
- Be the beneficiary of such a petition; and
- Get married once in the U.S.
As a member of the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, the United States cannot deport those who will face persecution back home because of their identified gender. This includes people who are already transgender or in the process of sexual reassignment. As long as they apply within one year of arriving in the U.S., they are eligible for asylum. There are some exceptions to the one-year limitation, and a immigration attorney familiar with transgender issues can provide the right advice in that area.
Victims of Human Trafficking
If you were brought to the United States as a victim of sex or labor trafficking or became entrapped by such an arrangement after arriving, you may be eligible for a T-visa, which enables you to remain in the country for up to four years if you assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the ringleaders. T-visa holders may be able to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents.
Victims of Crime
A U-visa may be granted to immigrants who have been mentally or physically injured by crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault and assisted the police in resolving it. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you may also be protected under the Violence Against Women Act. This visa can protect you from deportation and enable you to eventually apply for a green card.
Withholding of Removal
If you are not eligible for asylum or a T or U-visa, you may be able to remain in the United States via “withholding of removal.” This process stops you from being deported to a country where you could face discrimination and persecution and allows you to remain in the U.S. for an indefinite period of time. Although it does not allow you to adjust your status to legal permanent resident, you may seek authorization to work.
Although transgender immigrants have the same rights and protections under U.S. immigration law as any others, they can face unique challenges, which is why you should work with an attorney who is fully familiar with LGBT rights. At the Law Offices of Connie Kaplan, PA, we will support your right to live, work, and enjoy a rewarding future in the U.S. For more information, contact us today!