VAWA Victims of Domestic Violence
US Congress passed a special law called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA for short) with provisions for immigration applicants to protect them from abuse and allow them the opportunity to receive their immigration status without their abusive US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse.
How to Apply for a Green Card after Domestic Violence Without Your Abusive US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Spouse
- Male victims of domestic violence also can apply for VAWA protections
- Same sex couples where the US citizen or LPR spouse is abusing the immigrant give VAWA protections equal to traditional marriage cases.
- Children of VAWA applicants under 21 can be included and receive their own VAWA derivative status when VAWA petition is approved.
To file for VAWA protections, the following is required:
- You were married to a US Citizen or Green Card Holder in a bona fide marriage, for love and to create a family together. Also, if you THINK you were married, but you were not married (in cases where the US citizen spouse was practicing polygamy), you may be eligible. Also, if a parent of an abusive US citizen or LPR is filing, the child/parent relationship must be proven.
- You were abused by your USC Citizen or Green Card holder spouse.
- You are a person of good moral character
- You have documents proving your spouse is a US citizen or green cardholder.
- You have joint documents with your spouse proving you were married (joint tax returns, joint leases, joint utility bills, joint bank and credit card statements, photographs, etc.) and you can prove you have good moral character.
Even if you were already ordered removed/deported by an immigration judge or if you entered US without a valid visa, VAWA will help you get a green card.
The STEPS to VAWA green card process
Step 1 – VAWA and green card forms
- Forms and Documents to prepare:
- I-360 VAWA Petition
- Personal Statement from abused immigrant detailing how she met her spouse, how they date, how got married, what happened during the marriage, details of abuse, show the abuse was extreme and cruel.
- Documents proving US citizen status of abuser, proof of marriage, proof of abuse, witness letters, photos of the couple, biographical documents for the immigrant herself (passport, prior immigration correspondence, any prior work authorizations, any court documents), arrest records.
- Medical documentation and evaluations by a social worker or a psychologist or a psychiatrist showing the immigrant shows evidence of having been abused.
- Evidence of good moral character.
- I-485 Application for Green Card
- I-765 Application for Work Authorization.
Step 2 – Sent package to USCIS vermont Service Center Humanitarian Unit.
Step 3 – Receipt Notice by USCIS that the I-360, I-485, and I-765 forms were received by USCIS with new case numbers.
Step 4 – Attend Biometrics appointment at USCIS Application Support Center near your safe address.
Step 5 — Receive Prima Facie Approval letter.
Step 6 – Respond to any Request for Evidence letters from USCIS.
Step 7 – Receive Approval Notice for the I-360 VAWA Petition.
Step 8 — Attend interview for I-485 Adjustment of Status Green Card Application in a USCIS Field Office near where you live.
What do I do if my wife was only a green card holder and abused me?
For spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents, we first send out I-360 VAWA Petition, and then once it is approved, we wait for the priority date (filing date for the I-360 Petition) to become current in the category of I-130 filing dates for Spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents. When the date is current, only then we file I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Green Card.
Shepelsky law procedures for filing for VAWA I-360 petitions
I-360 VAWA self-petiton based on abuse/domestic violence by usc spouse or lpr spouse
- Need to prove was MARRIED to Spouse
- Need to prove Spouse was US Citizen or Green Card Holder.
- Need to prove that Marriage was Real (and not for immigration purposes)
- Need to prove that the abuse was EXTREME and CRUEL
Documents from VAWA client:
1. Prove status of Abusive Spouse (proof he was US Citizen or LPR).
- Marriage Certificate
- Naturalization Certificate, or
- US Passport, or US birth certificate or record of US citizen born abroad
2. Prove marriage was real, in good faith.
- Joint tax returns – filed married.
- Joint bills
- Joint leases
- Joint Bank statements
- Joint Insurance cards
- Joint photos. Photos must be signed. Date, place, who is in photo, meaning of the photo.
- Joint trips – tickets, itineraries
- Witness statements
3. Prove Abuse. Medical records, psychiatrist records, homeless shelter, police reports, Orders of Protection by Family Court.
Need witness statements to show dated, married, abused.
If has pending I-130/I-485, write a letter to USCIS where the file is (could be service center or could be Field Office) asking to Freeze the I-485 until the I-360 is decided/adjudicated and then switch filing basis of I-485 from I130 to approved I-360.
4. Moral character of self-petitioner
- Good Conduct Certificate from NYC Police Department or other places where they lived longer than 6 months
- Proof of church attendance
- Proof of volunteering in some Charity organizations or being member of some good community organizations.
5. Questions for personal statement/declaration for the I-360
- When di d you meet your u.s. spouse?
- Circumstances of meeting, addresses at the time you met?
- Details of dating?
- Who proposed to whom, when, where, details?
- Details of wedding, who was there, date, where was the wedding?
- When moved in together?
- Details of married life?
- Where did you live together?
- When did abuse start?
- What were at least 3 abuse incidents, with dates and places of where it took place
6. Landlord’s letter proving when and where lived together with spouse.
7. Joint documents – joint bills, joint lease, joint bank account, joint tax returns
8. Mail showing both spouses have same address
9. Witnesses that couple was married – in writing, need witness’s names, address and immigration status and what they know
10. Witnesses of the abuse – what they saw, what they heard, that the abuse was extreme and cruel.
11. When and how abuse began. Details of abusive behavior.
- Medical Records – treatment for mental injury, physical injuries?
- Family Court – Order of Protection?
- Criminal Court – Order of Protection?
- Police reports
- Domestic Violence District Attorney’s records
- Emergency room records?
- Counseling, psychotherapy – will need letter from counselor or from psychiatrist with assessment
- Arrest records for Abuser?
13. Correspondence with family, with abuser, with any other people
After I-360 is approved:
- File for I-765 Work Authorization with basis (c)(31) – based on approved VAWA.
- If priority date is current for filing for a visa in the category (spouse of USC is immediately, spouse of LPR waits for the priority date to be current), file for Adjustment of Status.
- No need for Affidavit of Support – must I-864W.
U-VISA Victims and Witness of Crime
U-visa is a nonimmigrant visa for victims of violent crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.
U-visa is valid for 4 years.
The U-Visa was created by the US Congress to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies (like police, district attorneys, FBI, ICE and drug enforcement agencies) to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, violent crimes, trafficking of aliens, and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
A holder of the U-Visa can apply for a Green Card after 3 years of continuous presence in the US with the U-visa.
Family members of U-visa holder may receive U-visas too
Benefits of the U Visa to the Recipient
U-visa is not just limited to the victim but can include his family members.
Certain immediate family members of U visa recipients may also be eligible to live and work in the US as derivative U visa recipients based on their relationship with the principal recipient. These family members include:
- Unmarried children under the age of 21 of
principal U visa recipient
- Spouses of principal U visa recipient
- Parents of principal U visa recipients under
age 21 or if incompetent or under special circumstances
- Unmarried siblings under 18 years old of
Am I eligible for a U-visa?
You may be eligible for a U-Visa if:
- You are the victim of qualifying criminal activity.
- You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.
- You have information about criminal activity. You were a victim and you were a witness to crimes by a third person.
- If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend can give information on your behalf.
- You will have to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
- The law enforcement agency should know you will need them to sign special forms for you to be eligible for the U-Visa (the form is
- The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
- You are admissible to the United States. If you are not admissible, you may apply for a waiver using Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter US as Nonimmigrant.
What are the Crimes that Qualify the Victim to Be Eligible for the U-Visa?
Qualifying Criminal Activities
What forms and documents do I file to receive the u-visa for victims and witnesses of criminal activity?
- The first step is to ask the Law Enforcement Agency with which you are cooperating to SIGN and certify your Form I-918 Supplement B Certification. This certification shows that you were a victim and are certified as having helped the government agency punish the criminal. Only a completed Supplement B certification will help win the U-Visa.
- Prepare your Form I-918, Supplement A
- Include your biographical documents (passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, any prior immigration documents you may have)
- Collect evidence you are the victim of qualifying criminal activity
- Include Evidence you have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse. This could be police reports, medical records, evaluations by a licensed social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist
- Evidence you have information about the criminal activity, and that the criminal activity is qualifying and violated United States law or occurred in the United States.
- Evidence you were helpful to a certifying law enforcement official in the investigation or prosecution of qualifying criminal activity
- A personal statement/declaration describing what happened, all the details of the crime and what you witnessed and how you suffered
- If you are inadmissible, an application for a waiver of inadmissibility on Form I-192, with the appropriate fee or request for a fee waive
- If you are filing Form I-918, Supplement A for an immediate family member:
- Credible documentation of the claimed relationship
- An explanation of why required documents are not available (if applicable)
- If your qualifying family member is inadmissible, an application for a waiver of inadmissibility on Form I-192, with appropriate fee or request for a fee waiver
What happens after I send out my I-918 form for the U-visa?
- First, you will receive a USCIS Receipt Notice with a new case number for your petition for the U-Visa
- Next, you will have to attend a Biometrics appointment with USCIS
- You may receive a Request for Evidence to add documents or other things to your case.
- Last step is to receive your Approval Notice.
Applying for a green card through U-visa
You may be eligible to apply for a Green Card (adjustment of status/permanent residence) after 3 years of having
- You have been physically present in the States for a continuous period of at least three years while in U-visa status, and
- You have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since you received your U visa.
- You will have to obtain new updated forms to show you have helped law enforcement and are a person of good moral character yourself.
Family Members Deriving Status
If the family member deriving status based on your status has met the eligibility requirements for a Green Card, they may apply for lawful permanent residence by filing their own green card applications.
Even if your family members never had U nonimmigrant status or a U visa, they may still be eligible for a Green Card.
- First, you must file a Form I-929, Petition for a Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Visa holder for each eligible family member.
- You will have to prove your family relationship (birth certificates, marriage certificates, family records).
- You may file the Form I-929 at the same time or after you file your Form I-485.
If the Form I-929 for your family member(s) is approved:
- Family members in the US may file their Forms I-485 to apply for a Green Card. They must also individually meet Green Card requirements.
- Family members outside the United States must first visit a U.S. embassy or consulate to obtain their immigrant visa.
Department of Homeland Security Guide to U-Visa Certification is found online at the website.
T-VISA Victims of Human Trafficking
T-visas are non immigrant (temporary) visas valid up to 4 years and are issued to victims of human trafficking who help law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting human trafficking.
- T-Visa Holders are eligible for receiving work authorization and federal and state benefits and services (like Section 8 subsidized housing, Medicaid, food stamps and cash assistance).
- T-Visa holders who qualify may also be able to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents (obtain a Green Card).
Congress created this status (commonly referred to as a T- visa) in October 2000 as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to compel individuals to provide labor or services, including commercial sex. Traffickers often take advantage of vulnerable individuals, including those lacking lawful immigration status.
T-visas offer protection to victims of human trafficking and strengthen the ability of police, district attorneys, drug enforcement agencies, FBI and other law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking.
Under federal law, a “severe form of trafficking” is:
- Sex trafficking: When someone recruits, harbors, transports, provides, solicits, patronizes, or obtains a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, where the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or the person being induced to perform such act is under 18 years of age; or
- Labor trafficking: When someone recruits, harbors, transports, provides or obtains a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
What forms do I file to qualify for a T-Visa?
A person may be eligible for T-Visa if she:
- Is a victim of a severe form of human trafficking, and
- Is living the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry due to trafficking, and
- Helps law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking (unless you are under the age of 18 or you are unable to cooperate due to physical or psychological trauma), and
- Demonstrates that she would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if she were removed from the US, and
- Is admissible to the US (If you are not admissible, you may be eligible for a waiver of certain grounds of inadmissibility. You may apply for a waiver using Form I-192.
What forms and documents do I need to file for a T-Visa?
- Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status.
- Personal statement/declaration including describing how you became a victim of human trafficking and the suffering you endured, also explain which law enforcement agencies you assisted.
- For family members, including Form I-914, Supplement A, Application for Immediate Family Member of T-1 Recipient
- Evidence of your assistance to the law enforcement agency to investigate or prosecute human trafficking may be Supplement B to Form I-914. However, you may send in trial transcripts, court documents, police reports, news articles, affidavits, or other relevant credible evidence to USCIS.
- Biographical documents (passport, birth certificate, marriage and divorce records, prior immigration correspondence).
- Evidence to show that you meet all other eligibility requirements.
- Form I-192 Waiver for people who are inadmissible.
- Form I-485 Application for a Green Card, and
- Form I-131 Application for Advance Parole for people who wish to travel outside of the US prior to their green card interview
- Form I-765 Application for Work Authorization. But, the work authorization will only be issued by USCIS after approval of the T-Visa.
Can I apply for a green card if I already have the T-Visa?
- T-Visas are issued for a period of 4 years.
- T-Visas may be extended in certain situations.
- T-visa holder may apply for a Green Card after 3 years of continuous presence in US with the T-visa or once the investigation or prosecution of the trafficking is complete, whichever occurs earlier.