U Visas and VAWA Petitions Attorneys
In addition to immigration programs that focus on an applicant’s ability to contribute to the United States or rejoin family members, there are programs that strive to help victims and survivors of crimes enter or remain in the United States. The U visa and the VAWA program are similar in some ways but significantly different in others. Explore these visa options and discuss your unique circumstances with the team at Castillo & Associates. Just call us at 800-497-9774 to get started.
What is a U Visa?
The U visa is a non-immigrant visa. It is only available to those who were victims of crime while in the United States. Applicants must have experienced mental or physical abuse while in the United States and help law enforcement in the prosecution of these crimes. Generally, applicants can only receive a U visa if they would otherwise be admissible to the United States. If they are not, they may apply for a waiver.
Qualifying crimes include abduction, sexual assault, domestic violence, kidnapping, sexual exploitation, torture, and trafficking. Applicants must submit a certification of helpfulness along with their visa petition. The certification must show that they have been, are being, or are likely to be helpful during the criminal investigation.
Upon receiving a U visa, the visa holder must stay in the country for three years if they want to apply for an adjustment of status and become a permanent resident.
VAWA is short for the Violence Against Women Act. This law has been in place since 1994 and strives to protect victims of domestic abuse. Prior to VAWA, people who were dependent on their abusive spouse for their immigration status were unable to leave their spouse unless they were willing to leave the country. VAWA allows abused spouses and children of American citizens or permanent residents to apply for their own green card that is not tied to their relationship with their abuser. VAWA applicants can self-petition.
If you are a victim of abuse but think you do not qualify for VAWA, please talk to an immigration attorney. Abuse looks different in every relationship, and even if you are not a commonly targeted group or the abuse is not physical in nature, please reach out to find out if you qualify. You should not have to live in fear of your abuser.
Differences Between U Visas and VAWA Petitions
There are several differences between U visas and green cards given out under VAWA, so you may want to consult an attorney if you feel like you may qualify for either. To start, there is an annual cap of 10,000 visas for U visa applicants. This often results in a long wait time. There is no cap on VAWA visas.
U visa applicants may have been victimized by anyone, but VAWA applicants must have experienced abuse at the hands of a citizen/permanent resident spouse or parent.
While U visa applicants are required to help the police or other criminal justice agency in the prosecution of the criminal who caused them harm, there is no such requirement for VAWA applicants. They are not obligated to take legal action against their abuser.
There is also a slight difference in admissibility requirements. VAWA applicants must demonstrate good moral character to receive a green card. This means that an applicant with certain criminal convictions may not qualify. U visa applicants do not have to show good character; they simply must be admissible to the United States.
The U visa is a non-immigrant visa, while a VAWA petitioner can receive a permanent residency card. Although the U visa is a non-immigrant visa, the applicant may apply for a green card after three years of being in the United States.
How to Find Out If You Qualify
Since there is some overlap in these options, you may wonder if you qualify for either. Your first step is to talk to an attorney. This can be a difficult situation if you are the victim of domestic abuse, so protect yourself by reaching out on a computer away from home or calling from a loved one’s phone. We understand how challenging this situation can be, and we’re here to help.