Immigrant Victims of Domestic Abuse and Other Crimes
- The U visa classification provides a path to legal status for certain foreign-national crime victims. The U visa is available to individuals who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been the victim of qualifying criminal activity*, who possess information concerning the criminal activity, and who have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful to the authorities investigating or prosecuting the criminal activity.
- The U visa classification is sought through a Form I-918 petition, filed with USCIS. Prior to submitting the I-918 petition and supporting documents, the applicant must obtain a U nonimmigrant status certification, signed by a designated law enforcement official.
- The U classification allows an individual to live and work temporarily in the U.S., and eventually apply for permanent residence. Successful U visa applicants may also obtain protection for their minor children, and in certain instances, for their spouses, siblings, and parents.
- *The criminal activity covered by the U visa classification includes rape; torture; trafficking; incest; domestic violence; sexual assault; abusive sexual contact; prostitution; sexual exploitation; female genital mutilation; being held hostage; peonage; involuntary servitude; slave trade; kidnapping; abduction; unlawful criminal restraint; false imprisonment; blackmail; extortion; manslaughter; murder; felonious assault; witness tampering; obstruction of justice; perjury; any similar activity in violation of Federal, State, or local criminal law; or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes.
- VAWA, or the Violence Against Women Act, provides a route to permanent resident status for certain battered and abused foreign nationals. Individuals who have been the victims of violence or extreme cruelty at the hands of a U.S. citizen or resident spouse or parent may be eligible to obtain permanent residence through a VAWA self-petition. A battered spouse may also include his or her children in the petition. A VAWA self-petition may still be filed following divorce from the abusive spouse, if submitted within two years of the legal termination of the marriage.
This summary of U Visas and VAWA Self-Petitions does not represent legal advice to any specific case. Interested applicants are advised to consult with an immigration attorney prior to initiating the process.