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According to the United States law of immigration, there are two possible visas regarding victims of sexual and domestic abuse.
- U Visa: It is meant for victims of serious crimes.
- VAWA: It is meant for women and children who are the victims of abuse.
If you are the victim of a violent type of crime, determining which visa to opt for might be a daunting task. In the case of domestic and sexual abuse, you may be eligible for both U visa and VAWA self-petition. Both the visas offer relief to the abused person for U.S. permanent resident or receiving a green card. However, both come with some sort of restraints.
Limitation on U visa:
One of the drawbacks that U visa comes with is that only 10,000 visas are given out every year. In the case of VAWA, there is no such restriction. Thus, the applicants of U visa might have to wait for another year if the 10,000 visa cap has already been reached. This might, in turn, hurt the eligibility of the abused person if their assistance is no longer needed in criminal cases.
VAWA petitioners need to have a permanent relative in the U.S. to apply:
VAWA can help battered and abused spouses to apply for green card or permanent resident status in the U.S. The victim can apply without the cooperation of the permanent resident abuser or the abusing U.S. citizen. However, in order to qualify for VAWA, you need to prove:
- Your abusive spouse is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and the abuser abused or battered you or your wards. Your children must be under 21 years of age.
- Your parents or stepparents are U.S. citizens and they battered or abused you or your children who are unmarried and under 21 years of age.
- Your adult child is a U.S. citizen who abused or battered you.
If you are applying for self-petition under VAWA as a battered or abused spouse or a spouse whose child has been abused, you need to:
- Be married to the U.S. citizen and have lived with that person for at least three years.
- In case you are divorced and the marriage ended due to abuse, you need to establish and show a connection between the abuse you suffered and your divorce.
- Your marriage with the U.S. citizen must have been entered in good faith.
This whole section thus shows that if you are not married to your partner who is a U.S. citizen, you cannot apply for VAWA self-petition relief. Same goes for if the relative who is abusing you is not a U.S. citizen.
Being helpful to the authorities for U visa:
If you are the victim of domestic violence and you are not able to apply for VAWA self-petition, you can apply for U visa. But, in case of U visa, you need to show proof of serious physical or mental injury. You need to cooperate with the authorities so that they can investigate your case and prosecute the person who abused you. You might need to have some helpful information for the law enforcing officials. The officials, in turn, will confirm your application of abuse by providing a Certificate of Helpfulness.
Good character is required for VAWA
For VAWA self-petition, it is required that you show good character. This is not the case with a U visa. VAWA requires showing of your good character and moral values, unlike U visa. Some of the ways you can demonstrate your good and moral character are with letters of recommendation or examples of activities that show engagement with your community, being a responsible parent, making ethical decisions, or maintaining the expectations of a law abiding member of society.
Regardless of the type of visa you apply for, you need to submit ample evidence for proving your eligibility.
Background on VAWA
VAWA is the acronym for the Violence Against Women Act, which was passed in 1994 by the United States Congress. VAWA programs generally address domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking—crimes for which the risk of victimization is highest for women—although some VAWA programs address additional crimes. The VAWA covers people in many situations, not just immigrants, and in fact it can be applied to abused men as well.