VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT
Under the Violence Against Women Act, there are several forms of relief available. The status of the abuser determines whether you are eligible to apply for immigrant or non-immigrant status. Working with an attorney may make obtaining legal immigration status possible.
Self-petition: A self-petition may be the right approach for you if you are the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and have been a victim of abuse while living with the abuser in the U.S. A self-petition allows you to file a petition to obtain residency in the United States.
VAWA Cancellation: If you or your child were the victim of abuse by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent, you may be eligible to obtain legal residence through an application for VAWA cancellation.
U Visa: Under the Violence Against Women Act, you may be able to apply for a U Visa if you were the victim of a crime.
The U nonimmigrant status is a nonimmigrant (temporary) status that allows non–citizen victims of crime to stay in the United States, obtain employment authorization, apply for lawful permanent resident status, and help certain family members obtain immigration status as well.
There are up to 10,000 U visas available each fiscal year (Oct. 1 – September 30). Although a U visa can eventually lead to permanent residency, it is initially granted for four years and allows the applicant to have employment authorization for those four years. After the applicant has completed three years in U nonimmigrant status, he or she may be eligible to adjust his or her status and receive permanent residency (a green card).
The purpose of granting U nonimmigrant status is to protect victims of certain crimes who have come forward, reported a crime, and aided in the investigation and prosecution of that crime. It also furthers the humanitarian interest of protecting vulnerable victims of serious crimes by assisting survivors of domestic violence other crimes. The granting of U nonimmigrant status is also very helpful to law enforcement since it encourages cooperation and reporting of crimes.
Naturally, for immigrants who have no immigration status and who are victims of crimes, it seems illogical to call the police to report a crime. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (VTVPA 2000) enacted in October of 2000 was created in part to encourage immigrants to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement without fear of retaliation.
There are six basic eligibility requirements for U nonimmigrant status:
- The applicant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of certain criminal activity;
- The applicant possesses information concerning that criminal activity;
- The applicant has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity;
- The applicant has certification from a federal, state, or local law enforcement authority certifying his or her helpfulness in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity;
- The criminal activity violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the United States; and
- The applicant must be admissible to the United States, or demonstrate eligibility for a public interest waiver of any inadmissibility factors.
T Visa: You may be eligible for a T Visa if you are the victim of human trafficking or forced labor.
A victim of the international crime of human trafficking may be eligible to apply for a T-1 visa, which allows the victim to remain in the United States temporarily as a nonimmigrant visitor. Human trafficking is a crime that occurs when people are sold for the purpose of sexual slavery or exploitation, or forced labor.
The primary purpose of the T-1 Victims of Human Trafficking visa is to provide a way for alien nationals who are victims of sexual exploitation and forced labor to come forward to federal authorities without fear of reprisal. It is a motivation both to help such people get out of the situation that they are in by arresting and prosecuting those who are responsible, as well as quell any fear that they will be deported for coming forward.
All agencies involved with a T-1 visa application are also required by law to keep all information confidential.
There are four basic eligibility requirements for T nonimmigrant status:
- Foreigners to the United States who came illegally against their will to engage in pornography, prostitution, involuntary servitude, debt bondage or slavery; and those
- Who were coerced to come to the United States in order to engage in these acts; and
- Who would suffer extreme hardship if they were deported; and
- Who report the crime to federal authorities, and if at least 15 years old, assist authorities in the prosecution of those who are responsible for the crimes.
The spouses, children and parents of victims of human trafficking who meet the above criteria are also eligible to apply for temporary nonimmigrant visas. A lawyer can assist families in applying for the appropriate visas.
The duration of the T-1 visa is for three years from the date it is issued.
The visa for victims of human trafficking is not renewable, and the holder cannot apply for an extension.
It is permissible for T-1 visa holders to apply for a green card if they meet the following requirements:
- Maintain continuous presence in the U.S. from the time the T-1 visa was granted;
- Show proof of consistent moral character;
- Have voluntarily assisted federal authorities in the prosecution of the relevant trafficking case;
- Show proof that the applicant would suffer hardship if deported from the U.S.;
- Be admissible as a permanent resident; and
- File the appropriate documents
The T-1 Visa for Victims of Human Trafficking allows victims of modern slavery, be it sexual exploitation or forced labor, to come forward to federal authorities without the threat of being deported due to their illegal alien status. As such, it also provides an opportunity for certain applicants and their families to apply for permanent residency in the United States.
When dealing with immigration matters it is important to have an experienced immigration attorney on your side to protect your interests and guide you through the complicated and intimidating process of applying for VAWA relief. Especially in U and T visas cases, where an applicant may be dealing with the emotions of the crime suffered, it is of critical importance to retain the services of a qualified and experienced immigration attorney who will assist you every step of the way.
The attorneys of Bushell & Widdison have experience assisting individuals in seeking VAWA relief. We understand the sensitive nature of these types of cases and your comfort and privacy is of utmost priority to us.
In U and T visa cases, the applicant has the burden of proof. Often, applicants get only one chance to get the petition right. An immigration lawyer can help you submit the most persuasive and compelling U or T visa petition and give you the best chance of success. In addition, our immigration attorneys assist applicants with the certification requirement for U Visas (procuring U visa certification signatures from desired federal, state, or local law enforcement authority).
It is important to understand that U and T nonimmigrant status is available to applicants regardless of the immigration status or identity of the abuser. In domestic violence cases, it is not necessary for the victim to be married to the abuser to be eligible to apply for U nonimmigrant status. Further, even crimes that occurred many years ago can still help you qualify for U nonimmigrant status. In addition, most inadmissibility factors, such as (but not limited to) unlawful entry, unlawful presence, expedited removals, and general past immigration problems may be waived by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in U and T visa cases, thereby, removing most roadblocks involved in applying for this type of immigration benefit.
The legal advocates of Bushell & Widdison are fluent in Spanish and can communicate directly with clients and their family members, as well as understand documents in Spanish.
Furthermore, because immigration law is a federal, and not state, matter, Bushell & Widdison can assist you even if you are not a resident of Utah. If you need a competent immigration attorney to handle a case under VAWA for yourself or a family member, contact the legal advocates of Bushell & Widdison today.