Abusive partners may utilize a victim’s immigration status to exert power and control.
Immigrants and/or refugees in abusive relationships face an additional set of barriers that make it difficult to reach out for help.
Examples of how abusers attempt to exert power and control can include:
- Isolating someone from communicating with family, friends, or individuals from their home countries.
- Preventing the victim from learning English.
- Threatening someone with deportation or withdrawal of petitions for legal status.
- Threatening to separate someone from their children by contacting the authorities.
- Destroying someone’s legal documents and paperwork.
- Threatening that a victim can lose citizenship or residency if they report the violence.
- Threatening to call employers or getting a victim fired from their job.
If you are undocumented and have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, and/or stalking and have filed a police report, you may be eligible for additional help, including a U-Visa or legal assistance.
** The information below is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute specific legal advice. To determine eligibility, please consult with a licensed attorney or Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representatives.
What is a U-Visa?
A U-Visa provides protection and immigration support for victims of a violent crime. They may be available to victims who aid law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of a crime.
U-Visa eligibility requirements include:
- You are a direct or indirect victim of a qualifying criminal activity and experienced mental or physical distress as a result. Examples of qualifying criminal activities can include: sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, murder, sexual exploitation, false imprisonment, and kidnapping. Please visit https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/victims-human-trafficking-other-crimes/victims-criminal-activity-u-nonimmigrant-status/victims-criminal-activity-u-nonimmigrant-status for more information on qualifying crimes.
- Due to the criminal activity, you have experienced physical or mental harm or distress.
- You have been, are, or likely will be helpful to law enforcement during the criminal investigation or prosecution (case in criminal court.)
- The crime occurred in the U.S.
A U-Visa allows individuals:
- To legally live in the U.S. for 4 years. After 3 years, individuals can apply for a green card to stay permanently and eventually become a U.S. citizen.
- Permission to work in the U.S.
- To be eligible for public benefits.
- Immediate family members may be eligible for a U-Visa and receive certain benefits in some states.
It varies, but it may take up to 2-3 years to obtain a work permit due to a backlog.
Is there anything else I should know about the application process?
- Individuals do not need immigration documentation to apply.
- Immigration status of the perpetrator or abuser is not relevant.
- There is an option to waive the application fee.
- Immediate family members may be eligible for a U-Visa as well. However, the direct or indirect victim of the crime must submit an application.
- Family members of undocumented UCR students are also able to access services provided by the Undocumented Students Programs office.
If you are interested in applying for a U-Visa or would like more information, the CARE Office can assist you and connect you with the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center (UCILSC). CARE advocates work in collaboration with the Undocumented Student Programs office to connect individuals to the application process, accompany individuals when they work with the immigration attorney, and explain other options and resources that are available. If you would like assistance or more information from a CARE advocate on applying for a U-Visa, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (951) 827-6225.
UCILSC provides free legal advice and representation for immigration purposes. All current UC students and their immediate family members (spouses, sibling, parents, and children) have free access to UCILSC.