VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT (VAWA)

Immigration benefits for Victims of Crimes
If you are victim of domestic violence as a spouse, child or parent, of a U.S. citizen of permanent resident, you may file an immigrant visa petition under VAWA, which would make you eligible to immediately apply for adjustment of status to a lawful permanent resident (acquire a green card).

VAWA allows victims to petition for immigration benefits, without the abuser’s knowledge. This allows victims to seek both safety and independence from their abuser, who is not notified about the filing.

It should be noted that VAWA benefits apply equally to women and men.

Help is also available from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD). The hotline has information about shelters, mental health care, legal advice and other types of assistance, including information about filing for immigration status. For more information, visit the National Domestic Violence website.

Qualifying spousal relationship:

  • You are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser or
  • your marriage to the abuser was terminated by death or a divorce (related to the abuse) within the 2 years prior to filing your petition, or
  • your spouse lost or renounced citizenship or permanent resident status within the 2 years prior to filing your petition due to an incident of domestic violence, or
  • you believed that you were legally married to your abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse but the marriage was not legitimate solely because of the bigamy of your abusive spouse;
  • You have suffered battery/extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse;
  • You have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, or
  • your child has been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by your U.S. or permanent resident spouse.
  • You entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for immigration benefits;
  • You have resided with your spouse;
  • You are a person of good moral character.

Eligibility Requirements for a Child
Qualifying parent/child relationship:

  • You are the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser, or
  • you are the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser who lost citizenship or lawful permanent resident status due to an incident of domestic violence;
  • You have suffered battery/extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent;
  • You have resided with your abusive parent;
  • You are a person of good moral character (a child less than 14 years of age is presumed to be a person of good moral character).

Eligibility Requirements for a Parent
Qualifying parent/son or daughter relationship:

  • You are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who is at least 21 years of age when the self-petition is filed, or
  • you are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who lost or renounced citizenship status related to an incident of domestic violence, or
  • you are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who was at least 21 years of age and who died within 2 years prior to filing the self-petition;
  • You have suffered battery or extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen son or daughter;
  • You have resided with the abusive son or daughter;
  • You are a person of good moral character.

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U-Visa
The U visa is for victims of certain violent crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful and cooperative to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute violent criminal activity.

You may be eligible for a U visa if:

  • You are the victim of qualifying criminal activity.
  • You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.
  • You have information about the criminal activity. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf.
  • You were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

Qualifying Criminal Activities

  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
    False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Felonious Assault
  • Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Peonage
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Slave Trade
  • Stalking
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness Tampering
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint
  • Other Related Crimes*†
    *Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.
    †Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.

If you are not admissible to the United States, you may apply for a waiver. If you are currently or have been in removal proceedings before, there may also be a need to administratively close or reopen old removal orders.

Filing for Qualifying Family Members
Certain qualifying family members are eligible for a derivative U visa based on their relationship to you, the principal beneficiary. If you are under 21 you may be able to petition for your parents, and siblings under 21. If you are over 21 you may be eligible to petition for your spouse and children under 21. This includes family members both in and outside the United States.

The U-Visa status is granted for four years and the beneficiaries are eligible to apply for adjustment of status after 3 years of being in U visa status.

U visas are capped at 10,000 per year and USCIS is currently backlogged.

It is very important to speak to an experienced attorney about your eligibility for a U-Visa for you and your qualified family members. Schedule one today.

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