VAWA AND U VISAS
Undocumented immigrants who have been victims of domestic violence at the hands of a U.S. citizen or green-card holder spouse, child or parent, may be able to self-petition for a green card under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) without the abuser’s help or knowledge. Those who are eligible will be able to apply for a green card in the U.S., without having to leave the country, regardless of whether they entered the country with permission or not.
Domestic violence includes physical, sexual or psychological violence. Having filed a police report is not a requirement for VAWA. The law applies equally to both men and women who have been victims of domestic violence.
In addition to proving abuse, a self-petitioner under VAWA must also prove:
- Good faith marriage if the abuser is a spouse or step-parent;
- Relationship to the abuser;
- Immigration status of the citizen or LPR spouse, parent, or child;
- Good moral character; and
- Residence with the abusive family member.
Individuals who have divorced the abusive spouse may still apply for VAWA, as long as the petition is filed within two (2) years of the final divorce decree.
This type of visa is reserved for immigrant victims of certain crimes who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result and who have been helpful to law enforcement or government officials during the investigation or prosecution of the crime. The crime must have occurred in the U.S. and must be a “qualifying crime” as defined by the U visa regulations. Some examples of qualifying crimes include but are not limited to domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and assault with a weapon.
Once an individual has been granted U visa status, he or she may be able to apply for a green card after 3 years in U visa status. A U visa applicant can also petition for derivative U status for certain family members including spouses and children under 21. If the U visa applicant is under 21, that applicant can also petition for derivative U visa status for his or her parents and unmarried siblings under 21.
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