Crime Victims

which visas are available for crime victims?

There are several forms of immigration relief for foreign nationals who become victims of domestic violence, child abuse, human trafficking, and certain other crimes. Generally, the forms of relief available to survivors of abuse or violence are:

  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides relief for domestic violence victims.
  • T Nonimmigrant Status (T Visa), which provides immigration protection for victims of human trafficking.
  • U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa), which provides immigration protection for victims of crimes (including rape, assault, battery, domestic violence, and others listed in the statute).violence and others listed in the statute)
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which provides immigration protection for child abuse, abandonment, and neglect victims.

Determining which of these categories is the best match for your situation can be a difficult and emotional task. Some people may qualify for more than one category, and some people should consider alternate routes to safety and citizenship. The attorneys and Kayi & Wilkes PLLC can help navigate you through this process and determine the path that best suits your case.

vawa petitions

VAWA is a means for survivors of domestic abuse (including spouses, children, and parents) to self-petition for lawful status in the United States, receive employment authorization, and access public benefits without the cooperation of the U.S. citizen or the permanent resident who is abusing them.

You may qualify if:

  • your spouse is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and he or she battered or abused you or your child (under 21 years old)
  • your parent or stepparent is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent and he or she battered or abused you (and you are unmarried and under 21), or
  • your adult child (over 21 years old) is a U.S. citizen and he or she battered or abused you.

However, if you are applying as a battered or abused spouse (or a spouse whose child was abused), you must:

  • have been or be married to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and have lived together at some point, and
  • if you divorced, you must be able to show a connection between the divorce and the abuse you suffered, and
  • your marriage must have been entered into in good faith.

T Visas (Human Trafficking)

T visas are available for those who are or have been victims of human trafficking, whether for labor or sex purposes.

T-visas are valid for four years and the visa holder may be eligible to apply for permanent residence (green card) after three years.

You may be eligible for a T visa if you:

  • Are or were a victim of trafficking, as defined by law,
  • Are in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry due to trafficking.
  • Comply with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking (or you are under the age of 18, or you are unable to cooperate due to physical or psychological trauma)*.
  • Demonstrate that you would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if you were removed from the United States.
  • Are admissible to the United States or obtain a waiver of admissibility.

* If under the age of 18 at the time of the victimization, or if you are unable to cooperate with a law enforcement request due to physical or psychological trauma, you may qualify for the T nonimmigrant visa without having to assist in investigation or prosecution.

U Visa (Victims of Crimes)

U visas are available for victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. U visas are valid for four years and the U visa holder may be able to apply for permanent residence (green card) after three years.

You may be eligible for a U visa if you:

  • Suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
  • Have information concerning that criminal activity.
  • Have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
  • The criminal activity violated U.S. laws.

Special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS)

An immigrant juvenile who has been abused, abandoned, or neglected may be eligible for lawful permanent resident status after obtaining classification as Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ).

To qualify for SIJS, you must:

  • Be unmarried, both when you file your application and when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes a decision on your case;
    • “Not married” includes a child whose marriage ended because of:
      • Annulment
      •  Divorce
      •  Death
  • Be declared dependent on the court, or placed in the custody of an individual or entity appointed by a state or juvenile court located in the U.S.;
  • Be under the age of 21 (in practice, most states will not declare a juvenile dependent on the court after he or she turns 18);
  • Be unable to reunify with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment or similar basis found under state law; and
  • Be someone in whose best interest it is to remain the U.S. and not be returned to his or his parents’ previous country of nationality or country of last habitual residence.

Before an application can be submitted to USCIS for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a state court must issue an order making specific findings of fact. Once the order is obtained, then an application can be made to USCIS, and depending on the history of the juvenile, an application can be filed either simultaneously or subsequently for adjustment to become a legal permanent resident.

How we can help

The attorneys at Kayi & Wilkes have significant experience working with survivors of violence and vulnerable populations. We understand the sensitive nature of these cases and are committed to ensuring your safe and healthy future. We will consider all of the options, risks, and waivers that may affect your case and strategize which is the best route for you. We will carefully compile your application and evidence and see your case to the end.

Let our attorneys help secure your safety, your family, and your future. Contact us for a consultation.