People who are the victims of certain crimes or of domestic violence may have various options to stay in this country, including through a U visa or through a self-petition authorized by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Determining which of these programs you may be eligible for can be complicated and, in some instances, you may be eligible for both. The information below is designed to help people understand these two options and in what circumstances it may be better to file a self-petition under VAWA and when it would be favorable to pursue a U visa. For specific information regarding your case, be sure to talk to an experienced immigration lawyer.
U visas are a type of non-immigrant visa available to victims of certain crimes who have suffered substantial mental, physical or emotional abuse and who have been helpful to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, or certain other government officials. U visas permit their holders to live and work within the United States for a period of four years. Extensions may be granted in certain situations. Importantly, there are only 10,000 U visas available to principal petitioners each year, but there is no cap on family members who derive status from the principal petitioner. U visas can be used as a path to citizenship, as eligible U visa holders are eligible to apply for a green card after living continuously in the U.S. for three years with that U visa. An individual eligible may be eligible for a U visa if he or she is a victim of any of the following criminal acts; please note that this is not a complete list, and victims of other crimes should contact an experienced immigration attorney to learn whether they may qualify:
VAWA provides individuals who have been battered or abused by certain family members the opportunity to obtain green cards without having to have a family member petition on their behalf. Physical abuse is not required; the law accounts for other types of abuse under the term “extreme cruelty.” The law allows both men and women to self-petition for lawful permanent status under the following circumstances:
While individuals who are seeking approval of a self-petition under VAWA must be able to establish good moral character, a U visa only requires that the petitioner not be inadmissible to the United States, which is a lower hurdle to overcome. In addition, the U visa offers a generous waiver for applicants who have inadmissibility issues, such as criminal convictions or multiple unlawful entries into this country.
Individuals who have been the victims of domestic violence or other crimes may be able to stay in the United States through the Violence Against Women Act or through a U visa. Certain relatives may also be included in the applications, whether inside or outside the United States. Because of the legal complexities involved with petitioning immigration authorities for a visa or permanent resident status, it is highly advisable for anyone considering doing so to retain the services of a skilled Chicago immigration lawyer. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call Kriezelman, Burton & Associates, LLC today at 312-332-2550.
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