Violence Against Women Act

U-Visas – Victims of Crimes

Many immigrants are fearful of admitting that they have been a victim of a crime in part because they believe they will be removed (deported) from the United States if they report the crime to law enforcement agencies. Some immigrants may be afraid to report acts of domestic violence to the police or to seek other forms of assistance. Such fear causes many immigrants to remain in abusive relationships.

However, this is not the case. U.S. law provides several protections for legal and undocumented immigrants who have been victims of a crime. There are specific protections for victims of domestic violence, victims of certain crimes, and victims of human trafficking. All agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including USCIS, are legally prohibited from disclosing that a victim has applied for VAWA, T, or U immigration benefits.

What is a VAWA Self-Petitioner?

Victims of domestic violence who are the child, parent, or current/former spouse of a United States citizen or a permanent resident (green card holder) and are abused by the citizen or permanent resident may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence themselves without needing the abuser to file for immigration benefits on their behalf. This provision of the law was created under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

VAWA provisions apply equally to men and women. Victims of domestic violence, whether a spouse, child, or parent of the abuser, may self-petition by filing Form I-360, Petition for Widow(er)s, Amerasians, and Special Immigrants.

Victims must establish that they:

  1. Have or had a qualifying relationship with the abusive spouse or are the parent or child of the abuser
  2. Reside or resided with the abuser
  3. Have good moral character
  4. Have been victims of battery or extreme cruelty

What is U nonimmigrant status?

U nonimmigrant status (or U visa) offers immigration protection for victims and is also a tool for law enforcement. To obtain U status, the victim must obtain certification from law enforcement. However, obtaining certification does not grant a benefit; only USCIS has the authority to grant or deny this benefit.

Victims of the following crimes may be eligible for a U non-immigrant visa:

  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Perjury
  • Felonious Assault
  • Hostage Taken
  • Incest
  • Peonage
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Witness Tampering
  • Prostitution
  • Sexual Assault
  • Slave Trade
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint
  • Other Related Crimes

Victims are not required to be in legal immigration status, but they must establish that they:

  1. Are a victim of a qualifying criminal activity and have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime
  2. Possess credible and reliable information about the qualifying criminal activity
  3. Are, have been, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation and/or prosecution of that qualifying criminal activity
  4. Are a victim of criminal activity that violated a U.S. law


What is T nonimmigrant status?

Trafficking in persons—also known as “human trafficking”—is a form of modern-day slavery. Traffickers prey on many types of people, often individuals who are poor, unemployed, underemployed, or who lack the safety and protection of strong social networks. Victims are often lured into trafficking under the false pretenses of good jobs and better lives, and then forced to work under brutal and inhumane conditions. Many believe that human trafficking is a problem that only occurs in other countries, but human trafficking also happens in the United States.

The T nonimmigrant status (or T visa) provides immigration protection to victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons who assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases.

Victims are not required to be in legal immigration status, but they must establish that they:

  1. Are a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons
  2. Are physically present in the United States due to the trafficking
  3. Comply with any reasonable requests for assistance in the investigation or prosecution (or are under the age of 18)
  4. Would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if removed from the United States

To apply for T nonimmigrant status, applicants must file Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status. Qualifying family members may also be eligible to apply for benefits.

To learn more about how Immigration Attorney Kavitha Ramasami can help you as a crime victim, contact her today. We are ready to begin helping you immediately.


Form I-918

Form I-914

Form I-485, Form i-693, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status