If you have been, or are, a victim of domestic violence or another crime and are cooperating with law enforcement, you may be entitled to apply for special status to remain in the U.S. as a permanent resident. Different provisions apply depending on the relationship between the victim and the batterer or other criminal. These visas provide protection to cooperating victims who might otherwise be reluctant to report, or participate in the investigation of, serious crimes
Options for Victims of Domestic Violence Who Are Related to Their Abuser
Although enacted under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”), any family member – male or female – may apply for permanent residence in the U.S. if the family member who batters them is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. For example, potential applicants include the parents of adult U.S. citizens or permanent residents who abuse their parents.
In addition, with regard to children abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, either a battered child under the age of 21 may apply, themselves, or the parent of the abused child may apply for immigrant status. The parent’s application may include themselves, the abused child and any other non-abused minor children.
A spouse-applicant may include in their application their children under the age of 21. The application is made in confidence, and no notice will be provided to the batterer.
A Spouse Does Not Need to Still be Married to the Abuser
Although a spouse must have been married to their U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser, this does not meant that her or she must still be married, or even that the abuser remains a citizen or permanent resident. A spouse may file for permanent residence if, within the past two years, the marriage ended in divorce or even death arising out of the abuse, or if the abuser lost his or her status as a citizen or permanent resident as a result of the abuse. In addition, the applicant may be eligible if they believed they were in a real marriage which was illegal due to bigamy by the abusing spouse.
Victims of Certain Crimes
A “U” non-immigrant visa is available to persons who are victims of certain crimes and have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime that does not involve direct family relationships. Depending on the severity of the abuse, this visa can be available to victims of domestic violence by non-spouses or non-parents. The crimes which may provide the basis for a U visa range include a large number of serious crimes includingabduction, witness tampering andinvoluntary servitude.
To qualify for the U visa, the victim must have “credible and reliable” information about the crime which violates U.S. law. They also must be, have been, or are likely to be helpful to the investigation and/or prosecution of that qualifying criminal activity.
Similar to the U visa, the T visa allows victims of human trafficking to apply for non-immigrant status. This visa is available to victims who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking.
Legal Requirements for Humanitarian Visas
Although they similarly provide protection for foreign victims of crimes, the VAWA, U and T visas all contain specific requirements and eligibility. An attorney familiar with the available options can recommend which type of visa is appropriate under the applicant’s particular circumstances and assure that all required information is submitted to the correct office to of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.