The United States provides statuses that are meant to protect immigrants and allow them safe havens while they assist with legal proceedings and law enforcement. Some of these statuses allow immigrants to eventually apply for residency. There are three options depending on what crime the victim has suffered:
- “U” visa for victims of serious crimes
- “T” visa for victims of human trafficking, and
- the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that allows abused spouses as well as parents and children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to self-petition for residency
Understanding the Difference Between T Visas, U Visas and VAWA
With possible overlap between the three categories listed above and potential eligibility for multiple visas, it is hard to decide which to apply for. For example, human trafficking is also a qualifying serious crime, meaning the victim would qualify for both U and T visas. For a more detailed overview of these three statuese, please visit the links below:
Making the Best Decision
Victims of domestic violence may be eligible for both a U visa and a VAWA self-petition. Both provide similar forms of relief by putting the applicant on the path to permanent U.S. residency through obtaining a green card. If you are interested in learning about your eligibility for any of these three visa, call our offices immediately, or send us a message online to let us know about your case. We are ready and waiting to answer any of your questions and assist you in filing if you are a qualifying candidate.
U Visas Are Limited, But VAWA Self Petitions Are Not
Despite no limitations on crimes committed, the law limits the number of U visas given out to each per year. More often than not, this limit is reached far before year’s end. The VAWA self-petition does not have these same restrictions, meaning quicker possible turnaround. Often, U visa applicants have to wait until the next calendar year for their applications to be processed. If the criminal proceedings that initially made them eligible for the U visa no longer require the applicant’s assistance, this hurts their chances of obtaining the visa.
VAWA Requires a Qualifying Family Member
VAWA is a way to let battered and abused spouses, as wells as parents and children to obtain permanent U.S. residency without having to go through the abuser with citizenship or residency. Despite the misleading name (Violence Against Women Act), abused men and women are both welcome to self-petition. There are three main qualifying factors:
- Your spouse is a U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident and he or she battered or abused you or your child (under 21 years old).
- Your parent or stepparent is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and he or she battered or abused you (and you are unmarried and under 21) or;
- Your adult child (over 21 years old) is a U.S. citizen and he or she battered or abused you.
However, if you are a battered or abused spouse or the parent of a battered or abused child, you must meet a few requirements:
- You must have been or be married to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and have lived together at some point and;
- If you are divorced, you must be able to show a connection between the divorce and the abuse you suffered and;
- Your marriage must have been entered in “good faith”.
Please remember that providing proof that a marriage was entered in “good faith” can be difficult, so let a qualified legal professional manage that process.
U Visa Applicants Must Be “Helpful” To Law Enforcement
U visas were created with immigrant victims or serious crime who have suffered physical or mental injury in mind, and these victims must assist law enforcement agencies in legal proceedings related to this crime. The public policy states that these immigrant victims must be capable of providing helpful information to police officers and prosecutors in hopes of successfully investigating these crimes and bringing any criminals involved to justice.
Like VAWA, you need to prove that the battery or abuse suffered somehow violated U.S. law, but unlike VAWA, a qualifying relative is not needed.
U Visa “Certification of Helpfulness”
The U visa is meant for victims who can also provide helpful information to law enforcement officials and will need them to attest to your assistance by submitting a “Certification of Helpfulness”. To learn more about this certification, read our blog, What is a U Visa “Certification of Helpfulness”.
We Are Ready to Help You!
For every visa or status described in this blog, an application process is still required. Understanding your eligibility for a U Visa, T Visa, or VAWA is a difficult process, and your best bet is to work with an immigration lawyer.
Do You Need Help In Getting Your Green Card Or Visa in Virgina, Maryland or Washington D.C.?
If you're trying to obtain a Green Card or Visa you need to speak with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Vienna, Virgnia office directly at 703.991.7978 or our Rockville, Maryland office at 301.637.5392 to schedule your case consultation.