Visa Options under VAWA

 

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has undergone much support and also criticism since it was first enacted in 1994.  In regards to immigration, VAWA has been expanded to allow immigrant victims relief through several methods permitted by USCIS.  Immigrants subject to violent crimes may apply for a U-visa, victims of sexual assault or trafficking may apply for a T-visa, or a victim of spousal/child/parent abuse may petition by themselves for permanent residency without informing their abuser.  The following are applicable to both men and women, adult or minor.

U-VISA

A U-Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that grants status for victims of certain crimes that are involved in an investigation or a criminal prosecution proceeding.  To qualify, the following must be present:

  • Immigrant must be a victim of a qualifying criminal activity
  • Immigrant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse in connection with the criminal activity
  • Immigrant must have information about the criminal activity
  • Immigrant must have been or will be helpful in the investigation and prosecution of the crime
  • Crime occurred in the United States or violated United States laws

A U-Visa grants nonimmigrant status for four (4) years.  Extensions are available, but only under limited circumstances.  Work permits are also available and many U-Visa recipients can apply for permanent residence status at the expiration of their visa.

                T-VISA

A T-Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that permits victims of human trafficking to remain in the United States in order to assist in an investigation or a criminal prosecution proceeding.  Human trafficking is used to deceive immigrants, more likely to be women, with promises of a better life and work.  To qualify, the following must be present:

  • Immigrant must be a victim of trafficking
  • Immigrant is in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry due to trafficking
  • Immigrant must have been or will be helpful in the investigation and prosecution of the crime
  • Immigrant must show that he or she would suffer hardship if he or she were removed from the United States

T-Visa grants recipients ability to apply for permanent residence status at the expiration of their visa.

BATTERED SPOUSE, CHILDREN, AND PARENTS     

An immigrant visa petition may be filed by a victim of spousal, parent, or child abuse without the knowledge or support of their abuser.  Although certain eligibility requirements vary depending on the victim, all of them generally require the following:

  • The victim suffered from battery/extreme cruelty by his/her U.S. citizen spouse, parent, or child
  • The victim resided with his/her abuser
  • The victim is a person of good moral character

Work permits are also available and many recipients can apply for permanent residence status at the expiration of their visa.

These protections under VAWA make it possible for those victims to assist in prosecuting criminals as well as offering protection for those who have been victimized by United States Citizens.  Should you feel that you are a victim and need help, please contact the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD).

 

Cynthia I. Waisman focuses her practice in the area of Immigration Law. Contact our Clearwater office at 727.712.2299 or Tampa office at 813.279.6180 today to discuss your immigration case.  We are here to help immigrants obtain the benefits they deserve.