Domestic Abuse Victim
Being a domestic abuse victim is something that should never happen to you. If is devastating and scary, especially with you are here in the U.S. under a visa or green card with your abusive spouse. Here is what you need to know before calling our office.
Domestic Abuse Victim | Applying for a U Visa
USCIS reserves U visas (10,000 per year) for victims of crime, especially violent crime. Many applicants have suffered domestic abuse, kidnapping, prostitution, involuntary servitude, labor fraud, or sexual assault. If you have been a victim you may apply for a U visa, on the condition that you work with law enforcement by completing a I-918 form, usually available at your police department.
Because the U visa is reserved for victims, it depends on documentation from the police. This means that if you’ve been a victim, you must have contacted the police. Without documentation of the crime, the police will not sign off on your I-918 form.
Police may refuse to sign the I-918 form. This is entirely at their discretion. You may have other options, though. If your case has traveled through the courts, a prosecutor or judge may sign your form. If you’re not sure how to get a completed I-918 form, an immigration lawyer may have the expertise and the resources to help you.
The U visa comes with a work permit valid for three years. With a work permit you may obtain a Social Security Number and a driver’s license. After three years you may apply for an adjustment of status, which could lead to a green card.
Domestic Abuse Victim | Leaving an Abusive Spouse Who Sponsors You
The Violence Against Women Act could help in this situation. Singed in 1994 and reauthorized with expanded terms in 2013, VAWA includes a provision allowing victims of domestic violence (women or men) to apply for U visas. The applicant must have had a bona fide marriage to a U.S. citizen or a green card holder, must have suffered physical or emotional abuse, and must have been cohabitating with the abuser. The applicant may file even after divorce from the abuser, so long as he or she files within two years of the divorce.
Under VAWA, a victim of abuse could file an I-360 petition for a green card, a form of self-sponsorship. There’s a significant requirement of documentation (dealing with the conditions above), but USCIS usually approves these petitions within six months.
Also, VAWA may extend beyond spousal relationships. In at least one case, a mother of a U.S. citizen whose schizophrenia caused him to be abusive did successfully petition for a green card under VAWA.
If you are a domestic abuse victim and you are worried about how it will affect your visa or citizenship, please contact our office right away to speak with our experienced New Jersey immigration attorney.