U Visa or VAWA- A Legal Guide to Immigration Relief

U Visa or VAWA- A Legal Guide to Immigration Relief

Did you know that U.S. immigration law provides immigration relief for domestic violence victims and/or other crimes? Through the U Visa and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), immigrant victims of violent crimes can petition for a status update that could put them on the path to citizenship.

In this immigration relief guide, we will cover:

  • The difference between a U Visa and VAWA 
  • The requirements for a U Visa petition and a VAWA petition
  • Important facts to remember with U Visa & VAWA application

What is the difference between a U Visa and VAWA? 

The U Visa is a United States nonimmigrant visa that is set aside for victims of crimes. If these victims have suffered mental or physical abuse while in the U.S., they may qualify for a U Visa. It is essential to know that the victims of certain qualifying crimes can petition regardless of the immigration status of the perpetrator or abuser. Recipients of a U Visa can also become eligible to apply for permanent residence within three years of their approval.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides protections for immigrant women and victims of crimes by allowing battered immigrants to petition for legal status in the U.S without relying on abusive U.S. citizens (USC) or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouses, parents, or children to sponsor their Adjustment of Status application. This visa is for eligible applicants who have been victims of battery or extreme cruelty by a USC or LPR qualifying family member. Upon approval of a VAWA visa, the applicant is granted permanent residence in the U.S. indefinitely.

Now that you know the difference between U Visa and VAWA let’s go over the requirements you will need to file an application.

U Visa Requirements: 

  • Applicants must submit a U Visa certification (Form I-918 Supplement B) signed by a designated law enforcement officer, judge, prosecutor, or other state or federal government official.
  • Both the victim and perpetrator can be non-citizens. Immigration status does not matter.
  • Applicants must be a victim of a qualifying crime that occurred inside the United States.
  • Applicants must provide an official police/court report to verify they were victims of a qualifying crime.
    • Qualifying crimes include rape, domestic violence, any kind of felonious battery, aggravated assault, abduction, blackmail, false imprisonment, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, prostitution, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, trafficking, and more.

VAWA Requirements:

  • Applicants must file a VAWA Self-Petition (Form I-360)
  • Applicants must have been the victim of battery or extreme cruelty committed by a qualifying relative that is a United States Citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident.
    • A qualifying relative is a USC or LPR spouse, former spouse, parent, son, or daughter.
  • Applicants must have been legally married or have believed to be legally married to the abuser, and the qualifying relative abused you or your child.
  • Applicants must have entered the marriage in good faith and resided with their spouse.
  • Applicants must provide proof of relationship with the abuser, such as a marriage license. If the marriage was terminated by death or divorce, VAWA applications must be filed within two years of termination.
  • Applicants must also provide proof of good moral character.

If you are a victim of a crime or domestic violence, please reach out for help! Immigration relief is available for you and your family regardless of your abuser/perpetrator willing to assist in your Adjustment Status application. An immigration attorney can help you choose the correct visa to match your case and assist in filing all of the necessary documents needed to protect you.

Speaking of documents, be ready to supply your attorney with as much documentation as possible for all parties, including proof of abuse and possibly proof of citizenship or LPR of your abuser. Remember, documentation is so important!

Here are a few additional details to consider during your U Visa & VAWA application process: 

  • You can apply for a U Visa & VAWA even if you are in the country illegally.
  • Both U Visa and VAWA are NOT for women only. Men can also petition!
  • You MUST BE IN the U.S. to qualify for both a U visa and a VAWA.
  • Derivative applications can be filed for people outside of the country, such as children, but the applicant must be in the U.S.
  • VAWA recipients are granted permanent residency and have a pathway to citizenship.
  • U Visa recipients will be granted a 4-year visa with the possibility of a status adjustment in 3 years. At that time, you can apply to be a permanent residence.
  • For a U Visa, the perpetrator/abuser does not have to be a USC or LPR. Their immigration status does not matter.
  • You DO NOT have to continue living with your abuser or endure further aggression until your VAWA petition is complete.
  • If further protection is needed, you can file a temporary protection order with the court. This is not part of the immigration process. A protective order is a separate civil process that can be filed.


Summary:

U.S. Immigration law provides immigration relief for domestic violence victims and/or qualifying crimes such as rape, domestic violence, any kind of felonious battery, aggravated assault, trafficking, and various other crimes. Such victims of these qualifying crimes and domestic abuse have a right to apply for a U Visa or a VAWA visa that will grant them access to a path to U.S. citizenship. In this immigration relief legal guide, we cover the requirements needed to apply for each visa and important facts to help you choose which Visa best matches your situation.

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