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September 20, 2011

FAQ: If I am the victim of domestic violence, do I apply for a VAWA case or a U visa?

Both of these nonimmigrant statuses were created in the 2000 Violence Against Women Act, but they exist for victims in different circumstances. To begin, if you are the victim of domestic abuse by a U.S. citizen spouse, parent, or child, you are eligible to apply for a VAWA case. Although this type of case only covers a narrow demographic, it also has a few advantages over a U visa. First, a VAWA applicant need not obtain an I-918 Supplement B Certification Form from a law enforcement official like a U visa applicant must. This is usually the hardest part of the U visa application, so a VAWA case is much simpler and easier for this reason. Second, a U visa applicant must be continuously present in the United States for a 3 year period until they are eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency, while a VAWA applicant can apply immediately once a visa become available. For example, one of our clients who received a VAWA approval had been abused by his U.S. citizen wife, but never reported the abuse in fear that the police would uncover his status and deport him. Finally, his wife left him, and he was forced to raise his 2 children alone. Since applying for a VAWA case, he has received permission to work in the U.S. and will become a legal permanent residency, so now he can support his two children without fear of deportation. Nevertheless, most of our clients do not qualify for a VAWA case and instead apply for a U visa. The U visa is advantageous because it applies to a wider variety of crimes, including domestic violence, and there is no regulation on the legal status of the perpetrator. If the victim of domestic violence (or another crime) has a police report or court records, he or she may apply for a U visa. Thus, more of our clients apply for U visas since the regulations on qualifying crimes and legal status are less restrictive than VAWA cases. Additionally, an advantage of the U visa is that it allows a victim to petition for a wider variety of family members, whereas in a VAWA case, the victim may only petition their children under 21. All in all, each of these applications has advantages, but deciding between the two depends on the victim’s relationship to and the legal status of the perpetrator.
Emily Hogan
Special Case Manager
Mario Ramos PLLC

Posted by VisaLawyer at September 20, 2011 02:21 PM

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