ASSISTANCE FOR UNDOCUMENTED VICTIMS OF CRIMES
VAWA AND THE U-VISA
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal law first passed by Congress in 1994. VAWA provides a route for both women and men who are undocumented victims of physical violence or extreme cruelty by a U.S. citizen spouse, parent, or adult child to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States without having to rely on a family member to petition for them through the usual process. Under VAWA the abused person may “self-petition” for legal residency without the participation or knowledge of the abusive family member. The applicant must prove their abuser is a U.S. citizen, that they have the requisite familial relationship, and that they have suffered abuse.
Even if you don’t qualify for residence under VAWA, you may still be eligible to obtain legal status as a victim of a crime with a U-visa. Unlike VAWA, the U-visa does not require a familial relationship nor that the aggressor be a U.S. citizen. However, the application for a U-visa does require that a police report has been filed and that the applicant has complied with all requests from law enforcement in pursuing any charges. Once this evidence is provided then it, along with the required applications, can be filed with U.S. immigration to obtain U-visa status. This status can eventually lead to legal permanent residency for the victim and their family.
If you have been victimized by domestic violence or abuse and don’t know where to turn, get yourself to a safe location and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. They can connect you with resources and help you find a shelter in your area. For assistance locally in Bexar County, you can call Family Violence Prevention Services at (210) 733-8810.
Do not let your immigration status make you feel trapped in an unsafe situation. There IS help available.