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Domestic violence is a serious and widespread issue that affects countless individuals around the world. For victims of domestic violence who are in the United States or seeking refuge in the country, there are several visa options available to provide protection and legal status. In this blog, we will explore the options and resources available for obtaining a visa for victims of domestic violence.
1. U Visa – Victims of Crime Visa:
The U visa is designed for victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence, who have suffered physical or mental abuse and are willing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to investigate and prosecute the crime. Here are the key features of the U visa:
- Eligibility: To be eligible for a U visa, you must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the qualifying criminal activity and have information about the crime. Law enforcement agencies must certify your eligibility by signing a law enforcement certification form (Form I-918, Supplement B).
- Derivative Benefits: U visa holders can also apply for derivative U visas for certain qualifying family members, including spouses, children, and, in some cases, parents.
- Legal Status: U visa holders are granted legal status in the United States for up to four years, during which they can work and live without fear of deportation. After three years, they may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency (green card).
2. T Visa – Victims of Human Trafficking Visa:
The T visa is for victims of human trafficking, which can include situations of domestic violence if they involve forced labor or involuntary servitude. Key features of the T visa include:
- Eligibility: To be eligible for a T visa, you must be a victim of severe forms of trafficking, demonstrate cooperation with law enforcement, and show that you would suffer extreme hardship if removed from the United States.
- Derivative Benefits: T visa holders can apply for derivative T visas for certain qualifying family members, including spouses, children, parents, and siblings under the age of 18.
- Legal Status: T visa holders are granted legal status in the United States for up to four years, with the possibility of obtaining a green card after three years.
3. VAWA Self-Petition – Violence Against Women Act:
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows certain spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to self-petition for legal status independently, without the abuser’s knowledge or consent. Key features of VAWA self-petition include:
- Eligibility: To qualify for VAWA self-petition, you must demonstrate that you have been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent.
- Legal Status: If approved, VAWA self-petitioners can obtain lawful permanent residency (green card) in the United States.
4. Asylum and Withholding of Removal:
Victims of domestic violence may also seek asylum or withholding of removal if they can demonstrate that they have been persecuted or fear persecution in their home country due to their membership in a particular social group, which can include victims of domestic violence.
- Eligibility: Asylum and withholding of removal require demonstrating a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
- Legal Status: If granted asylum or withholding of removal, individuals can remain in the United States and eventually apply for lawful permanent residency.
5. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS):
For immigrant children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents, SIJS is an option. SIJS can provide a pathway to lawful permanent residency.
- Eligibility: To be eligible for SIJS, a court must have issued a declaration stating that it would not be in the child’s best interest to be returned to their home country and that reunification with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
- Legal Status: SIJS recipients can apply for lawful permanent residency (green card) in the United States.
Victims of domestic violence have legal options to seek protection and legal status in the United States. These options, including the U visa, T visa, VAWA self-petition, asylum, withholding of removal, and SIJS, offer pathways to safety and security for individuals facing abusive situations. It is essential to consult with experienced immigration attorneys and advocacy organizations specializing in domestic violence and immigrant rights to navigate these complex processes successfully and access the necessary support and protection.