How to get a u-visa

Legal Rights Available to Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence in the United States

Immigrants are particularly vulnerable because many may not speak English, are often separated from family and friends, and may not understand the laws of the United States.  For these reasons, immigrants are often afraid to report acts of domestic violence to the police or to seek other forms of assistance.  Such fear causes many immigrants to remain in abusive relationships.

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) requires that the U.S. government provide foreign fiancé(e)s and spouses immigrating to the United States information about their legal rights as well as criminal or domestic violence histories of their U.S. citizen fiancé(e)s and spouses.  One of IMBRA’s goals is to provide accurate information to immigrating fiancé(e)s and spouses about the immigration process and how to access help if their relationship becomes abusive.

Have Questions?

Complete the form to request the assistance of our in-house immigration attorney.

Elham Rabiei, ESQ currently practices immigration law and represents clients in different aspects of immigration including VAWA, U Visa, T Visa, as wells as asylum and removal proceedings at Charlotte Immigration Court.

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Immigration Benefits Available for Domestic Violence Victims

There are two visa options available for victims of domestic violence: (1) VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) Petition (Form I-360); and (2) U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa).

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), allows certain spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens to file a petition for permanent residence for themselves, without the knowledge of the abuser. VAWA is not gender specific, both men and women may apply. Under VAWA, abuse is not limited to physical abuse, the standard is “extreme cruelty,” which encompasses mental and emotional abuse.

The requirements for VAWA are separated for Spouse, Child, and Parent:

Eligibility Requirements for a Spouse

  • Qualifying spousal relationship:
    • You are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser or
    • your marriage to the abuser was terminated by death or a divorce (related to the abuse) within the 2 years prior to filing your petition, or
    • your spouse lost or renounced citizenship or permanent resident status within the 2 years prior to filing your petition due to an incident of domestic violence, or
    • you believed that you were legally married to your abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse but the marriage was not legitimate solely because of the bigamy of your abusive spouse.
  • You have suffered battery/extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse:
    • You have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, or
    • your child has been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by your U.S. or permanent resident spouse.
  • You entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for immigration benefits.
  • You have resided with your spouse.
  • You are a person of good moral character.

Eligibility Requirements for a Child

  • Qualifying parent/child relationship:
    • You are the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser, or
    • you are the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser who lost citizenship or lawful permanent resident status due to an incident of domestic violence.
  • You have suffered battery/extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent.
  • You have resided with your abusive parent.
  • You are a person of good moral character; a child less than 14 years of age is presumed to be a person of good moral character.

Eligibility Requirements for a Parent

  • Qualifying parent/son or daughter relationship:
    • You are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who is at least 21 years of age when the self-petition is filed, or
    • you are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who lost or renounced citizenship status related to an incident of domestic violence, or
    • you are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who was at least 21 years of age and who died within 2 years prior to filing the self-petition.
  • You have suffered battery or extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen son or daughter.
  • You have resided with the abusive son or daughter.
  • You are a person of good moral character.

VAWA Filing Process

  • You must complete the Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, including all supporting documentation.
  • Supporting documentations include: police reports and affidavits, medical records, affidavits from school officials, affidavits from social workers, and other social service agency personnel affidavits.
  • Submit the I-360 form to Vermont Service Center (VSC).
  • If you are a self-petitioning spouse or child and you meet all filing requirements, you will receive a notice (Prima Facie Determination Notice) valid for 150 days that you can present to government agencies that provide certain public benefits to certain victims of domestic violence.
  • If your Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant  is approved and you do not have legal immigration status in the United States, we may place you in deferred action, which allows you to remain in the United States.

U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa)

Victims of certain crimes committed inside the United States, who have suffered substantial mental, or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement or government officials in the investigation, may qualify to apply for U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa). U Visa applies to victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, felonious assault, human trafficking, false imprisonment, or other similar crimes. However, U Visa’s are difficult to obtain, due to the government only providing 10,000 visas per year to persons who qualify.

There are four requirements and individual must meet:

  1. You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity;
  2. You have credible and reliable information establishing that he or she has knowledge of the details concerning the criminal activity;
  3. You have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful to a certifying agency in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity; and
  4. The criminal activity occurred in the United States.

Qualifying Criminal Activities

  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Felonious Assault
  • Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
  • Hostage
  • Incest
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Peonage
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Slave Trade
  • Stalking
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Witness Tampering
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint
  • Other Related Crimes*†

*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.

†Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes

To apply (petition) for a U Nonimmigrant Status, submit:

  • Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status
  • Form I-918 , Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification. The Supplement B must be signed by and authorized official of the certifying law enforcement agency and the official must confirm that you were helpful, and currently being helpful, or will likely be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the case.
  • A personal statement describing the criminal activity of which you were a victim; and
  • Evidence to establish each eligibility requirement.