If you are the victim of abuse, you have some options when it comes to your immigration status. The U visa is available for victims of serious crime and self-petitions under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) are available for victims of domestic abuse. Both forms of relief provide a path to citizenship. There are some factors that can help you decide which visa applies to your situation.
One downside to a U visa is that there only a limited number of visas available. There is a limit of 10,000 per year. This cap is usually met before the end of the year. This means that you may be able to apply for a visa until the following year. With VAWA petitions, however, there is not a limit.
Because there is an enormous backlog of U visa petitions, you could wait several years for your visa to become available. After receiving your U visa, you still have to wait three years before you can get your green card. In contrast, the processing time for a VAWA petition is about two years. You can also adjust your status to a green card at the same time as your petition.
The intent of VAWA is to protect abused spouses (and certain children and parents). It helps these individuals get a green card without the cooperation of their abuser. You may qualify for a VAWA green card if:
However, if you are applying as an abused spouse or the parent of an abused child, there are some additional requirements including that you must:
This means that if you were not married to your partner, you would not be eligible for VAWA relief. In addition, if the relative who is abusing you is not a US citizen or permanent resident, you will not be eligible.
U visas were intended for victims of serious crimes who can provide helpful assistance to law enforcement agencies. If you are not able to petition for a VAWA green card and have been the victim of abuse, you may be able to apply for a U visa. You must prove that you have been the victim of abuse, but you do not have to have a qualifying relative to apply. In addition, you will have to provide helpful information to a law enforcement official. This official will have to vouch for the helpfulness of your information.
As part of a VAWA petition, you must establish that you are of good moral character. A U visa requires that you not be inadmissible to the United States but does not require a showing of good moral character.
If you are the victim of abuse and want to explore your immigration options, you should consult with an experienced and trusted immigration attorney. At Serving Immigrants, Inc., we have the experience and the knowledge to guide you through the application process. Contact us online or call us at (305) 907-6151 to schedule a strategy session.