The attorneys at Aquino & Loew have extensive experience handling the extremely difficult situation of when an individual is the victim of domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence need to understand that the immigration laws provide assistance to anyone who is the victim of domestic violence, whether the abuser is a spouse, parent, step-parent, child, or unmarried partner. The laws also protect victims who are abused by an individual who is as well out of status in the United States.
One option afforded under the law is the ability to apply for a green card. Under the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA), which also applies to men despite the law’s name, a victim of domestic violence may file a self-petition for a green card as follows:
He/she is a battered spouse of a US citizen or permanent resident (with unmarried children under the age of twenty-one eligible to apply as derivative beneficiaries);
He/she is a parent who has been subjected to extreme cruelty by their adult US citizen son or daughter;
He/she is the parent of a child who has been abused by a US citizen or permanent resident parent; and
He/she is an unmarried child under age 21 who has been abused by a US citizen or permanent resident parent. An unmarried child between 21 to 25 may apply only if they can prove that the abuse was at least one central reason for the filing delay. The child’s unmarried children could also be included as derivative beneficiaries.
For those who do not qualify under the VAWA provisions, a victim of domestic violence may still legalize his/her immigration status by applying for a U visa, which grants an individual temporary lawful status that can ultimately be converted to a green card. Unlike VAWA, the abuser and victim do not need to be married. As well, the abuser can also be an undocumented individual in the US.
To be eligible for a U visa as the victim of domestic violence, an individual must provide evidence establishing the following requirements:
He/she suffered substantial physical or mental abuse due to the domestic violence;
He/she has information concerning the domestic violence;
He/she has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful to law enforcement officials in investigating or prosecuting the perpetrator; and
The domestic violence violated US laws or occurred within the US.
An individual who has been the victim of domestic violence may obtain a U visa valid for 4 years entitling him/her to work and reside in the US. If the victim is under the age of 21, then his/her spouse, children, parents and unmarried siblings under age 18 are also eligible for a U visa. If the victim is age 21 or older, then the victim’s spouse and children may obtain a U visa as well. After 3 years, U visa holders may apply for permanent residency.
The VAWA and U visa regulations empower victims of domestic violence to not only ensure that justice against the abuser is obtained, but also to secure justice for himself/herself as a victim deserving of an opportunity in the United States. The immigration laws provide refuge to those who are faced with an intolerable situation of abuse. The attorneys at Aquino & Loew are prepared to fight for the rights of victims of domestic violence so that they may have the safe, secure, and healthy future that everyone deserves.