If I have been the victim of domestic violence, do I apply for VAWA or for a U visa?
It depends. You may be eligible for both and then it's up to you and your attorney which one you want to pursue (or both). You may be eligible to obtain lawful status through a VAWA self-petition if:
- Your spouse is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and has abused you;
- Your spouse is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and has abused your child;
- You are a child (under 21 years old and unmarried) of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who has abused you; OR
- You are the parent of a U.S. citizen who has abused you.1
(Victims of domestic violence who are not married to the abuser, or who have been abused by a spouse who is not a U.S. citizen nor a lawful permanent resident, are not eligible to self-petition under VAWA. For more information on eligibility requirements for VAWA, see VAWA self-petition.)
You may also be able to file for U visa status if you have been, are being, or will be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of a crime, including domestic violence, and meet all other requirements regardless of the immigration status of the abuser.2
You should discuss your options with an immigration lawyer with experience in VAWA and U visas before you file papers with USCIS to determine what would be the best option in your case. To find help, please go the Immigration page of the National Organizations section. If your lawyer needs assistance, s/he can call ASISTA for help.
1 INA § 204(a)(1)(A) & (B)
2 INA § 101(a)(15)(U)