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VAWA, U-Visa and T-Visa

In November 2000, the Violence against Women Act II was passed into law. Amongst other factors, this law also made changes to previously existing immigration laws that had allowed abused immigrant women and children to seek legal residency in the US independently of their abusers.

What does the Violence against Women Act II Offer?

This law allows women to petition for an adjustment of status for themselves and exempts them from section 245(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This act prohibits immigrants who have engaged in unauthorized employment those who have failed to maintain valid immigration status and a number of others from applying for adjustment of status.

Revised VAWA Advantages for Women

Under the revised VAWA, applicants no longer have to show that they would face extreme hardship in residing in the country. Additionally, they are also allowed to apply for permanent residence from outside the US, if they can demonstrate that they have been  victims of domestic violence in the US.

What Are The Eligibility Requirements For The VAWA II?

To be eligible for adjustment of status under the VAWA II, the woman must show one of the following:

  • Their marriage was ended within the past two years for reasons connected to domestic violence;
  • The abuser lost his or her immigration status within the past two years for reasons related to domestic violence;
  • If a US citizen, the abuser died within the past two years; or
  • The abuser was or is a bigamist.

What Is The Difference Between VAWA Applicants And Other Visa Applicants?

For most people in deportation proceedings, the period of continuous physical presence ends when the USCIS notifies them that they are being placed in deportation proceedings. However, this rule does not apply to VAWA applicants.

  • In other words, they have more of a chance to obtain the seven years presence necessary to be eligible for cancellation of removal.
  • Also, any absences from the US that were the result of domestic violence will not break the period of continuous physical presence.
  • Furthermore, the grounds for inadmissibility relating to good moral character can be waived if they are connected to domestic violence.
  • Also, applicants under the VAWA are exempted from the public charge ground of inadmissibility insofar as they are entitled to public benefits. They may also obtain a waiver of the ground of inadmissibility relating to HIV positive status.

What Is A U Visa and How Can I Be Eligible For It?

The VAWA II also created a new category of nonimmigrant visa termed as the U Visa.

To be eligible for this “U” visa, the applicant must have:

  • Suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse” because of a crime. The crimes may include domestic abuse and involuntary servitude.
  • Information relating to this crime that would be of assistance to law enforcement in investigating or prosecuting it.

U visa holders are work authorized, and are able to apply for adjustment of status after three years.  Plus, there is an annual limit of 10,000 U visas.

Other Eligibility Requirements for a U Visa

One of the eligibility requirements for acquiring a U visa is that the self-petitioner must demonstrate that he/she is a person of good moral character. A VAWA based self-petition can be denied or revoked if the record contains evidence to establish that the self-petitioner lacks good moral character.

The inquiry into good moral character focuses on the three years immediately preceding the filing of the self-petition, but the adjudicating officer may investigate the self-petitioner’s character beyond the three-year period when there is reason to believe that the self- petitioner may not have been a person of good moral character during that time.

A self-petitioner’s claim of good moral character will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis taking into account the provisions of section 101(f) of the Act and the standards of the average citizen in the community.

Other provisions in the VAWA II allow people who have adjusted status under it to apply for naturalization in just three years rather than five.

What is a T Visa?

A T-visa gives temporary non-immigrant status to victims of “severe forms of human trafficking” on the condition* that they will help law enforcement officials investigate and prosecute crimes related to human trafficking.

*However, if the victim is under 18 years of age, the law does not require cooperation with police to obtain a T-visa.*1

T Visa Conditions

T-visas allow victims of severe forms of trafficking to stay in the United States for four more years from the date when the T-visa application is approved.  However, sometimes this period can be extended and comprise of more than four years if a law enforcement authority certifies (officially states) that having the victim remain in the country for longer is necessary for investigating or prosecuting the crime.*2

If a T-visa is granted, an employment authorization document (EAD) is also granted automatically, which means that the victim can legally work during her stay in the United States. There is no need to apply for separate employment authorization.*3

Aside from the applicant, the T-visa status may also be available to their immediate family members..  Immediate family members include spouses, children, and parents of applicants under 18.*4

T-Visa – Eligible Family Members

If you are under 21 years old, you can apply for a T-visa status for yourself and for your:

  • Spouse;
  • Unmarried children under 21 years of age;
  • Parents; and/or
  • Unmarried sisters or brothers under the age of 18.

If you are over 21 years old, you can apply for a T-visa status for yourself and for your:

  • Spouse; and/or
  • Unmarried children under the age of 21.

Application Procedure for a T Visa

To apply for a T-visa status for a family member, you must fill out and submit an “application for immediate family member of T-visa recipient,” which is also known as a Form I-914 Supplement A.

A “T-visa recipient” means someone who has been granted a T-visa. However, one thing to understand here is that you don’t have to wait until you get the T-visa to apply for your family members.  You may file the I-914 Supplement A at the same time that you file your application for a T-visa, or you can file it at a later time.

Employment authorization is not automatic for derivative T-visa status.  If you need employment authorization for your immediate family members, you will need to complete a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization in addition to Form I-914 Supplement A.

Why Do You Need a North Carolina Legal Attorney to Get a T-Visa?

It is very important that you work with an attorney (or initially with an advocate) who is familiar with T visas application process in North Carolina to get the best results. The forms and laws are confusing and you may make a mistake or leave something out that can result in the CIS denying your application.

Also, because applicants who are unlawfully present in the United States are subject to removal (deportation) if their applications are denied, we strongly encourage you to contact an immigration attorney before you file an application for the visa.

Contact Johnson & Nicholson Attorneys for Legal Representation

Contact a Charlotte immigration attorney to learn more VAWA as well as U/T visa conditions.

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