VAWAThe United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reports that there are millions of requests for immigration benefits. It’s a fact that immigrants to the United States number in the millions. They vary in their immigration status. Some are undocumented immigrants, while others have gone through the correct channels to be able to come and stay.

It can be hard being a foreign national in another country. You don’t have to be undocumented to feel threatened and beleaguered. That’s why it’s important to be familiar with immigrant rights and be aware that US immigration policies provide certain benefits to foreign-born individuals who have been victims of violence and certain criminal activities. Two of them come in the forms of the U visa and the VAWA petition.

The U Nonimmigrant Visa

The U Nonimmigrant Visa is for foreign nationals who have reported to law enforcement that they have suffered from certain Qualifying Criminal Activity or QCA. Eligibility for this visa requires you to prove that:

  1. You were a victim of a certain QCA or any substantially similar crime.
  2. You reported the crime to the authorities and aided them in investigating or prosecuting it.
  3. The crime caused you physical and emotional suffering.
  4. You would suffer undue hardship if you were to leave the US and go back to your home country.

If your U Visa application is approved, you would be granted a valid visa as well as employment authorization that are good for four years. Immigration law provides that the U status may also be extended to immediate family members of the victim, including children under 21 years of age and spouses.

After three consecutive years of being in the country under U status, visa holders may apply for adjustment of status to obtain green cards or lawful permanent residency. Immigration laws also allow U visa holders to apply for Advance Parole so they may travel abroad for urgent humanitarian reasons.

Violence against Women Act Petition

The Violence against Women Act or VAWA presents a special benefit for foreigners of any nationality to self-petition if they have been abused by a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident parent or spouse. In order for you to qualify for this benefit, you must prove that:

  1. You have suffered extreme cruelty from your citizen or permanent resident parent or spouse.
  2. You were married in good faith.
  3. You were eligible for the family-based legal immigration petition filed by your abusive petitioner.
  4. You possess good moral character.
  5. You would suffer undue hardship if you were to leave the US and go back to your home country.
Take note of the following with regard to the VAWA petition:
  • The US immigration system allows you to concurrently file the I-485 Application for Lawful Permanent Residency with the VAWA petition or file it after the petition has been approved.
  • Although the act’s title designates women as the recipient of the benefit, it is possible for men in the same circumstances to apply for and receive this benefit as well.

Legal Assistance from Immigration Lawyers

If you feel that you qualify for a VAWA petition or that you and your family members are eligible to apply for U visas, consult an immigration lawyer as soon as possible for advice on your next step. Immigration attorneys provide legal representation and other legal services in cases involving US immigration issues. Call us at Diener Law and talk to an experienced immigration attorney about your case.