Victims of Crime

There are two types of visas available for victims of crime or violence:

  • If you are the spouse, child, or parent of someone who has abused you, you may qualify for a visa through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Please click here to learn more.
  • If you were a victim of any kind of crime by anyone while in the United States and you filed a police report, you may qualify for a U visa. Please click here to learn more.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the United States Congress created a pathway for victims of domestic violence to obtain a green card through a self-petitioning process. In order to qualify, you must be the spouse, child, or parent of the abuser. The abuser must either be a United States citizen or green card holder, and you must establish that the abuser subjected you to extreme cruelty or battery. Despite the name of the Act, the petitioner may be a woman or a man.

For abused spouses, you must establish that you entered the marriage in good faith, were married to your abusive spouse within the past two years, that you lived together during your marriage, and that you are a person of good moral character.

What is the Process to Obtaining a Green Card Through VAWA?

When I meet with you, we discuss your case in detail and make sure that you qualify for this particular visa. Anything you discuss with me or my office is kept completely confidential.

After you sign up, we collect all the required documents and throughly review your records to make sure everything is in order. We then schedule a meeting to review your application and sign off on all the immigration forms, which are then submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). No filing fee is required. 

After USCIS receives your VAWA application, you will likely receive a prima facie approval. This means that the government has reviewed all your documents and preliminarily approved your VAWA petition. If we determine more documents would help prove your case, we gather and submit them as a supplemental USCIS filing. It takes 12 to 15 months to receive an approval of your VAWA application.

What Documents Will I Need?

These are the forms that we typically prepare in a VAWA green card case: 

  • Form I-360 (19 pages)
  • Form I-485 (18 pages)
  • Form G325A (1 page)
  • Form I-693 (13 pages)
  • Form I-764 (2 pages)
  • Form I-864 (12 pages)

We generally attach the following documents: 

  • Your sworn statement
  • Sworn statements from any witnesses such as friends or family members
  • Your birth certificate (with certified translation)
  • Marriage certificate 
  • Divorce Decree
  • Copy of your passport (if applicable)
  • Copy of your I-94 card (if applicable)
  • Copies of any applications previously submitted to immigration (if applicable)
  • Birth certificates of children (if applicable)
  • Evidence of Abuser’s status as a green card holder or U.S. citizen, such as their U.S. birth certificate, Naturalization Certificate, U.S. passport, Green card, or any immigration documents ever filed by or for the abuser
  • Photographs of you and your abusive family member
  • Photographs of wedding ceremony and family events with you and the abuser
  • Emergency contact lists at place of employment that lists your abuser as a contact
  • Joint income tax returns, if applying as the spouse of an abuser
  • Joint property interests
  • Joint bank accounts
  • Rent receipts and utilities including gas, electric, water, cable, and phone bills
  • Joint credit card statements
  • Reports from police, judges, and other court officials documenting the abuse
  • Reports and sworn statements from medical personnel, school officials, clergy, social workers, and other social service agencies regarding the abuse
  • Orders of protection or other court findings of the abuse against you
  • Police clearance or state-issued background check from each locality where you lived for six months or more in the past three years
  • If you were ever arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime, copies of your arrest records and court dispositions
  • 2” x 2” passport-style photographs of you

If you’d like to start gathering these documents, you can download the checklist we use in my office by clicking here. 

 

How Much Does It Cost?

There are no government filing fees associated with your application if you are applying through VAWA. My office usually charges $4,000 to work on your case. More complex cases involving criminal issues or additional family members added to the application may cost more. 

These attorney fees cover all work performed and any questions you may have throughout the process until you receive your green card. If the government requests any additional evidence, we respond to them without an additional fee. 

Frequently Asked Questions

I filed for divorce, can I still apply for VAWA?

It depends. If you filed for divorce within two years of submitting your VAWA application, then you still qualify for VAWA. The U.S. government does not expect you to remain in an abusive relationship.

I thought we were legally married, but it turns out we weren’t. Can I still apply?

Yes. As long as your belief was in good faith, we can still apply for VAWA.

I never reported the abuse, can I still qualify for VAWA?

Yes. Many of my clients do not report the abuse because they fear deportation or further harm from their abuser. The government understands the cycle of violence and does not require that you file a police report or document your abuse. The sworn statement that we submit must include, in detail, the type of abuse you suffered, and how it has resulted in emotional trauma. That document represents sufficient evidence for your case.

I came to The United States without a visa, can I still qualify for VAWA?

Yes. You are not required to have a legal entry into the United States in order to qualify for a visa under the provisions of VAWA.

I have a criminal record, do I still qualify for VAWA?

It depends. We run a background check to see whether your criminal record will prevent you from obtaining a green card through the VAWA process. If it does, we would then apply for a waiver so that USCIS can grant you a green card.

Can I apply for a work permit through this process?

Yes. When we submit your VAWA and green card application, we also file for your work permit so that you can obtain proper documentation and work with the authorization of the U.S. government.

What is the government filing fee?

Since you are applying for a green card through VAWA, you do not need to pay any government filing fees.

How long is the process?

Receiving approval of your VAWA petition and green card application can take anywhere from 12 to 15 months, and sometimes longer. The most important thing is to get started as soon as you have the ability. Once you receive a green card, you will be one step closer to independence.

U Visa - Victims of Criminal Activity

In 2000, the United States Congress created the U visa to help protect victims of crime and enhance the ability of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. If you have ever been a victim of a serious crime, you may qualify for a U visa. Obtaining a U visa means you may become eligible for a green card.

What Crimes Qualify For A U Visa?

If you have been a victim of any of the following crimes, you likely qualify for a U visa: 

  • Abduction
  • Blackmail
  • Any form of domestic violence
  • Extortion
  • False imprisonment
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Felonious assault
  • Held hostage
  • Human trafficking
  • Incest
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Stalking
  • Taken as a slave, or in debt servitude
  • Witness tampering, and any other related crimes

U Visa Qualifications

If you have been a victim of any of the crimes listed above, you must also meet the following requirements: 

  • The crime that took place against you must have caused you to suffer substantial physical or mental abuse.
  • You have crucial information about the criminal activity. 
  • You were helpful, are helpful, or likely to be helpful to law enforcement in investigating or prosecuting the crime.
  • The crime occurred in the United States or violated the laws of the United States, and you are admissible to the United States. 

Timeline For Obtaining a U Visa

The U.S. government only issues 10,000 U visas per year. In the past several years, more people have applied for U visas than are available. This has created a long delay in getting the U visa approved. However, you will go on a waiting list until the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is able to process your case. If you do not qualify for any other form of relief, applying for a U visa is your best chance of obtaining a green card.

The U visa process has many steps and requires a great deal of documentation to establish the abuse. It also requires certification from a certifying agency. 

If you are eligible for a U visa, our office will meet with you, discuss your case in great detail, and provide you with a list of documents that will need to be gathered. 

After you sign up, we will obtain copies of any police reports or court documents in which you were the victim of a qualifying crime. Once our office receives these documents, we will need to get the U visa certified by a police department, prosecutor’s office, a judge, or any other government official who is capable of signing off on the certification form. The U visa certification is crucial and without it we cannot file. Once we contact the correct agency and receive the certification, we then file your U visa application with USCIS. 

Since it takes several months to obtain the U visa Certification, we will meet with you several times to obtain your sworn statement regarding the abuse you suffered and how it continues to have an impact on you today. If necessary, we will send you to a psychologist for a thorough evaluation of the trauma. These evaluations help build your case and increase the chances of approval. 

Once we have received the U visa certification and finalized your sworn statement including all supporting documents, we will schedule an appointment with you to review your application and sign all the necessary immigration forms. We will then send the U visa application out for filing with immigration. 

Once USCIS receives the U visa application, they will likely schedule you for a biometrics appointment, where you visit a local USCIS office so they can collect your fingerprints and take photos. Afterwards, we will have to wait to receive additional correspondence from USCIS regarding the status of your application - this is the part that takes longest because you will be placed on a waiting list.

Once USCIS approves your U visa application, you will then be able to continue working and maintain your U visa status for three years until you are able to apply for a green card. During the three year period, we advise our clients not to leave the country because it could put their green card application at risk. 

What Documents Will I Need?

These are the forms that we typically prepare in a U visa Case:

  • Form I-918 (11 pages)
  • Form I-918, Supplement A, if necessary (12 pages)
  • Form I-918, Supplement B, (5 pages)
  • Form I-192, if necessary (8 pages)

In order to successfully prepare your U visa, we generally attach the following documents: 

  • Your sworn statement
  • Sworn statements from any witnesses such as friends or family members
  • Your birth certificate (with certified translation)
  • Marriage certificate 
  • Divorce Decree
  • Copy of your passport (if applicable)
  • Copy of your I-94 card (if applicable)
  • Copies of any applications previously submitted to immigration (if applicable)
  • Birth certificates of children (if applicable)
  • Any and all police reports concerning the crimes of violence against you by the perpetrator
  • All orders of protection between you, your family, and the abuser, (if applicable)
  • All documents relating to any court cases involving you, your family, and the abuser
  • All hospital and other medical records concerning incidents of domestic violence or trauma resulting from such incidents suffered by you or your family members (if applicable)
  • Letters from counselors, case managers, and shelter workers who interacted with you or your family in connection with the violence perpetrated against you or your family

If you’d like to start gathering these documents, you can download the checklist we use in my office by clicking here.

What Is The Cost?

There are no government filing fees associated with your application if you are applying through U visa. However, if Form I-192 needs to be filed in your case, then there is a government filing of $930. If you qualify for a fee waiver, our office will prepare it for you. 

My office usually charges $4,000 to work on your case. More complex cases involving criminal issues or additional family members added to the application may cost more. 

These attorney fees cover all work performed and any questions you may have throughout the process until you receive your U visa. If the government requests any additional evidence, we respond to them without an additional fee. 

Many of our clients are on interest-free monthly payment plans with an initial payment of $500 to get started.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get my U visa?

Right now, it is taking 4-5 years to receive a U visa because there are more people applying than visas available per year. Although this may seem like a long time, remember that you will receive a green card in the end and after that may be able to apply for full United States citizenship.

I have a criminal record, can I still qualify for a U visa?

It depends. We may need to file for a waiver if you have a serious criminal record. Our office will determine whether such waiver is necessary after we run a background check and have a complete copy of your criminal history. If a waiver is necessary, it may increase our attorney fees.

I do not have legal status, can I still qualify for a U visa?

Yes. We will prepare a waiver for your unlawful presence at no additional cost and include it with your U visa application. Please remember that you may have to pay a government filing fee of $930 if it is necessary for us to file the waiver. We will screen you to see if you may qualify for a fee waiver for that amount.

Will I receive a work permit once I file for a U visa?

Yes. When we submit your U visa application, we let USCIS know that you would also like to receive a work permit. We then wait until we hear back from USCIS regarding your work permit.

My parents are undocumented, can they also receive a U visa?

If you are under the age of 21, we can include your parents in your U visa application. Once your U visa is approved, your parents will also become U visa holders. If you are over the age of 21, you cannot include your parents in your U visa application.

My children are undocumented, can they also receive a U visa?

You can include your children in your U visa application. This means that if your application is approved, your children can also receive their U visas.

My spouse is undocumented, can they also receive a U visa?

Yes, you can include your spouse in your U visa application and help them get a U visa.

My siblings are undocumented, can they also receive a U visa?

If you are under the age of 21, you can help your siblings receive a U visa, provided that they are under the age of 18 and not married.