Statistics from Safe Horizon show that one-in-four women and one-in-seven men will be severely physically abused during their lifetimes, with the majority of those instances occurring at the hands of someone in their immediate family or living situation. The figures are even higher in the immigrant community (both documented and undocumented) for many different reasons. However, many times, relief does not come as easily to immigrant victims. Many are unaware that they might even be able to apply for permanent immigration status in the United States, if they fit certain qualifications, when doing so might let them escape their abusers for good. If you are in such a situation, reviewing the criteria might possibly save your life.
Requirements to Apply
Despite the name, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) applies to anyone with nonimmigrant status, of any gender, who can prove abuse by a U.S. citizen related to them. Immigrant women are statistically more likely to experience partner violence than immigrant men—very often, it is a husband or father who establishes a residence and citizenship in the U.S. first, and then petitions for his wife and/or children, which then places them in a disadvantaged position, as their immigration status is then dependent on his. However, men do receive status under VAWA if they meet the qualifications.
Applying for immigration status under VAWA requires slightly different things depending on your relationship to your U.S. citizen abuser. If you are the spouse, parent, or child of your abuser, and they are a U.S. citizen, you must be able to prove the relationship, and you must also be able to show that you (1) have resided with them or are currently residing with him or her; and (2) you are a person of good moral character. If your spouse is your abuser, then you must also be able to show that your marriage was entered into for good reasons, rather than for any immigration reasons.
If you do not meet the qualifications, there are still other options by which you may be able to obtain status as a victim of violence. The most commonly used method is a U visa, which is granted (with sponsorship from a law enforcement agency) to those who have experienced “substantial physical or mental abuse” as a result of being a victim of criminal activity of specific types, most notably rape and other sexual assault-related problems. However, they must also have information on the crime and be willing to assist the law enforcement agency handling your case, and must also be admissible under U.S. immigration law (or be eligible for a waiver).
One major difference to keep in mind, however, is that U visas only last up to four years, unless it is extended by the sponsoring law enforcement agency. VAWA, however, grants the applicant permanent resident status. A U visa holder may adjust status later, after three years of continued residence, and assuming that he or she has not refused to provide assistance to the law enforcement agency that has assisted in granting his or her visa. If time is a factor for you for any reason, this is something of which to be aware.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
No one should ever have to experience abuse. But if you do, there may be a way out. The compassionate Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are well versed in this area of law and will work with you to ensure that you have the best chance possible at a better life. Call our office today for a free consultation.
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