Options For Victims of Domestic Violence And Other Crimes Without Lawful Status In The United States

The month of October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month or DVAM. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in the United States an average of 20 people are physically abused by a partner every minute. Those in the United States without lawful status may be especially vulnerable to domestic violence or other crimes. For them, it may also feel especially intimidating to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement. However, coming forward may not only help the person get out of a seemingly impossible situation. There may also be option for that person to apply for lawful status in the United States.

One option for victims of Domestic Violence who are married to a Lawful Permanent Resident or United States Citizen is known as VAWA. An application under VAWA is essentially a self-petition for lawful status in the United States. The basic requirements to be eligible for relief under VAWA are as follows:

Qualifying Spousal Relationship:

  • You are married to a United States Citizen or Legal Permanent resident; or
  • The marriage was terminated by death or divorce within the two (2) years prior to your application; or
  • Your spouse lost or renounced their United States Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident Status within the two (2) years prior to your application; or
  • You believed you were legally married to a United States Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident but the relationship was not valid due only to bigamy on the part of your spouse.

Battery/Extreme Cruelty By Your United States Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident Spouse:

  • You or your child have been abused by your United States Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident Spouse.
  • You entered into the marriage in good faith and not solely for immigration benefits.
  • You have resided with your United States Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident Spouse.
  • You are a person of good moral character.

If the abuser is a United States Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident Parent or Child you may likewise be eligible to apply for relief under VAWA. Depending on the individual applicant’s circumstances, barring possible inadmissibility issues, they will likely be eligible to obtain a green card through VAWA. It is also important to keep in mind that the VAWA regulation specifically notes the person must have been a victim of battery OR extreme cruelty. Therefore, it is not only physical abuse that qualifies a person for VAWA.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of battery or extreme cruelty and fee you may be eligible for relief under VAWA you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney. The process is complex and it is important to obtain the assistance of an experienced professional.

Another option for persons that have been victims not only of domestic violence but other qualifying crimes may be a U-Visa. The U-Visa is meant to benefit persons that have been victims of certain crimes and have cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation of the crime. The general requirements for a U-Visa are as follows:

  • You must be the victim of a qualifying criminal activity;
  • You must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the criminal activity;
  • You have information about the criminal activity. Or if you are under the 16 or unable to provide information due to disability a parent, guardian or next friend may possess information for you;
  • You are helpful, have been helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation of the crime. Or if you are under the 16 or unable to provide information due to disability a parent, guardian or next friend may help for you;
  • The crime occurred in the United States or violated United States laws;
  • You are admissible to the United States. If you are not admissible you may be eligible for a waiver.

The qualifying crimes to be eligible for a U-Visa include domestic violence, rape, felonious assault, abduction and more. It may also include attempt or conspiracy to commit a qualifying crime. Being the victim of a significantly similar crime to those on the list of qualifying crimes may also qualify you for a U-Visa. If you obtain U-Visa status you will be considered to be a nonimmigrant and eligible for a work authorization. However, after 3 years of having obtained U-Visa status you may be eligible to apply for a green card.

If you believe you or a loved one may be the victim of a qualifying crime and eligible for a U-Visa you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney. The U-Visa process is a lengthy and complex one. The assistance of an immigration attorney is advisable.

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