The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides funds for investigating and prosecuting violent crimes against women and enables coordination of federal, state, local and tribal resources. Though VAWA was initially intended to protect women and their children, men and gay couples may also seek its protections. Part of VAWA’s focus is to protect vulnerable immigrants from domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and to protect Native American victims and members of the LGBTQ community.
VAWA Protection for Immigrant Victims
Immigrant victim are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual assault, particularly if they are undocumented. One reason is that U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents can threaten to refuse to file immigration petitions for their spouses and their children or stop helping. Also, immigrant women may be afraid to report abuse to the authorities for fear of deportation.
This is why VAWA created
- U visas for victims of crime
- T visas for victims of severe forms of trafficking
- Self-petitioning for permanent residency status
- VAWA cancellation of removal
Of course, all of these options take a great deal of proof and preparation in order to win approval.
U Visas for Victims of Crime
You may be eligible for a U visa if you have suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse” as the victim of certain crimes and are willing to help authorities investigate or prosecute the crime. The crimes include rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, female genital mutilation and a host of others. A U visa enables you to live and work in the United States. After three years you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency status if you meet requirements.
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T visas for Victims of Severe Forms of Human Trafficking
The T visa is available to victims of severe forms of trafficking which means
- You are the victim of sex trafficking where you have been tricked or forced into prostitution or where you are under 18 years of age, or
- You have been tricked or forced into involuntary servitude or slavery
A T visa enables you to live and work in the United States. You will get the same benefits as refugees, which includes job training, food stamps and cash assistance. After three years or until the end of the investigation and prosecution of the trafficking, whichever is less, you can apply for a green card if you meet certain requirements.
Self-petitioning for Permanent Resident Status
To prevent abusers from controlling their victims with the threat of refusing to help them get lawful permanent residency status, victims of domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse may “self-petition” for a green card without the help of the abuser. You may apply confidentially and get your green card while still living with the abuser if you so choose, so you can leave after you get your green card. Once your self-petition is approved, you will be authorized to work in the United States, and you will not be deported while you apply for lawful permanent residency.
The order of visa processing is the same family preference system that would be used if your abusive family member applied for you. In other words, spouses and children are given high priority, but self-petitioners are not given any higher priority than the spouses and children of other lawful permanent residents.
VAWA Cancellation of Removal
If you are a victim of abuse by a U.S. citizen or green card holder who is your spouse or parent, you may apply for VAWA cancellation of removal, so you are not deported. You may do this during removal proceedings. If you succeed, you will be not only be allowed to stay in the United States, but you will achieve lawful residency status.
Proving Your Case
Getting approval for a U visa, T visa, self-petition or cancellation of removal is far from a sure thing. There are many requirements and much you must do to prove you are eligible. If you do not dot an “i” or cross a “t”, your relief may be denied, and you may face deportation. We highly recommend that you have an experienced, successful immigration attorney with you every step of the way.
At Ghazi Law Group, we will listen closely and patiently to your story, and help recommend your best course of action. We can explain your options, help you gather evidence, prepare your personal statement, review witness statements, help you with experts who can prepare reports for the court, and prepare your case so it clearly lays out why you deserve relief.
NOTE: IS IT ACTUALLY A COURT? CAN YOU GO REPRESENT THEM? But it all starts with a phone call and a free consultation. Call us at Ghazi Law Group for a free consultation at (818) 839-6644 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.