The quarantine and shelter-at-home orders have left some people vulnerable to domestic abuse during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Domestic violence and emotional, financial and technological abuse are on the rise locally and nationally. Chicago has seen domestic violence calls up 18% during the coronavirus shutdown.
According to Women Against Abuse, immigrants may be susceptible to unique forms of domestic abuse by their partners, including:
Undocumented immigrants in the United States have rights and protections, and if they are in danger or fear, they should contact the police and seek emergency shelter.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows people who have been abused by a family member to ‘self-petition’ for their own lawful permanent residency application under an adjustment of status (AOS), called a VAWA self-petitioner. Although the act name refers to women, it applies to abused males and females.
VAWA self-petitioners need to file a Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360). You need to be the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen (USC) or Legal Permanent Resident. You can also qualify at the parent of a USC.
To qualify under VAWA, you do not have to be currently married to your abuser and you may qualify even if your spouse has recently lost his or her residency status as long as you meet other eligibility requirements.
The detailed requirements for Violence Against Women Act visa applicants make applying for this visa exceptionally challenging. The assistance of an experienced immigration attorney can be essential in completing VAWA applications. Forms that are not completed in a timely manner or are submitted late or incomplete can result in a denial of your VAWA petition.
A U-visa is a nonimmigrant visa which is set aside for victims of certain crimes. The person must have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse. They must also have participated with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of this qualifying crime.
Domestic Battery and Felonious Assault are qualifying crimes that would allow an immigrant to apply for a U-Visa.
A U-visa also has the advantage that the perpetrator does not have to be a US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident. In addition, there is no requirement that the immigrant be married to the perpetrator.
• Learn more about U visas here
The attorneys at Godoy Law Office in Lombard and Chicago, Illinois, fight for the rights of immigrants and help immigrants navigate the complex and numerous immigration policies, procedures, and regulations. If you need help with an immigration issue, please contact our office at 855-554-6369.