There are three ways for undocumented immigrants that become victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and some other specific crimes may apply for lawful immigration status for themselves and their children, depending on the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The visa application of a victim of domestic violence is confidential and no one, including the abuser, perpetrator, or family member, will know that you applied.
Immigration benefits for victims of domestic violence are:
– Self-petitions for legal status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
– Cancellation of removal under VAWA
– U-nonimmigrant status (victims of crimes)
Each of these immigration benefits has specific requirements that must be established and Immigration authorities advise that you consult an immigration attorney who works with victims of domestic violence.to discuss how any of these immigration benefits may affect or help you.
With the approval of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and its subsequent reauthorizations, Congress provided noncitizens who have been mistreated or abused by their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member, the ability to independently petition for themselves (self-petition) for an immigrant classificationwithout the abuser’s knowledge, consent, or participation in the immigration process.
This allows victims to seek safety and independence from their abusers.
In addition, help and support is available through the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). The hotline provides information about foster homes, mental health care, legal advice and other assistance, including information about applying for immigration status. For more information visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.
When it is required to apply for a U visa
Some victims of domestic violence are not eligible to apply for a VAWA self-petition because they are not married to the aggressor. Other victims are not eligible for VAWA because the abuser does not have legal documents. For people who are in any of these situations, the U visa may be your only immigration option based on domestic violence.
How to apply for a WABA visa self-petition
To apply for a VAWA visa, the following documents must be submitted to USCIS:
- – Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (you do not have to pay a fee if you file Form I-360 as a VAWA self-petitioner)
- Evidence showing that you meet all eligibility requirements.
If you include derivative beneficiaries on your self-petition, you must provide evidence that any derivative beneficiary listed you are under 21 years of age and single at the time of application, as well as evidence of the relationship between you and your child.
If your Form I-360 is not approved, it does not provide immigration status for you and your derivative beneficiaries.
Approval of a Form I-360 provides you and your beneficiaries with an immigration classification so that you and your derivative beneficiaries can apply for lawful permanent residence (Green Card).
USCIS will automatically consider you for employment authorization if you request an employment authorization document (EAD).
If your Form I-360 is approved and you are in the United States, USCIS may consider you for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), depending on your case.
Derivative recipients requesting consideration of deferred action (DACA) must include a copy of the WABA visa self-petition approval notice and evidence of qualified derivative family relationship, along with the petition, to the Vermont Service Center.
If you are outside the United States, USCIS will send your VAWA self-petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will forward your petition to the appropriate US consulate when a visa becomes available, and you will be notified of the next steps. This process is known as “consular processing.”
Petitioners who are not being represented by immigration attorneys You can mail your signed written inquiries to:
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Vermont Service Center
- ATTN: Humanitarian Division
- 38 River Road, Essex Junction, VT 05479-0001
Before submitting any document to USCIS, you may want to discuss your options with an experienced immigration attorney. To find help, please go to the National Organizations – Immigration page
With information from USCIS and WomensLA.org