Orlando VAWA Attorneys

Compassionate Legal Guidance

In 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was introduced in an effort to give noncitizens the ability to pursue immigration protections should they suffer from abuse or exploitation. Previously, immigrants pursuing marriage-based visas were forced to endure the potential for domestic violence in order to guarantee the cooperation of their abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. Other noncitizens working in the U.S. while undocumented were meanwhile compelled not to report any exploitative behavior of colleagues or management for fear of reprisal.

VAWA and similar legislative efforts have been augmented and expanded several times since its original introduction, extending permanent immigration benefit options to those who have been the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, violent crimes, or human trafficking. Our Orlando VAWA lawyers at Angel Law Firm, PL can help any noncitizen who has suffered abuse in the United States explore their immigration options. We are familiar with the policies and procedures involved in these unique situations and will do everything possible to get you the protection that you need.

You do not have to face the U.S. immigration system alone. Call (407) 337-8799 or contact us online to discuss your situation.

Using the VAWA “Self-Petition”

Many standard United States immigration procedures involving “filing jointly” with a sponsoring loved one to obtain a corresponding benefit. This dynamic can create unfortunate scenarios where a noncitizen is effectively “trapped” into not upsetting their sponsoring loved one, who may choose to improperly take advantage of the situation.

VAWA enables victims of domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse to “self-petition” for family-based visas. By self-petitioning, victims avoid having to involve their abusive partners, parents, or adult children.

Noncitizen spouses may also divorce their abusive partners and still self-petition so long as they file within 2 years of the legal separation. They will need to demonstrate that the domestic violence or abuse led to the divorce.

There are no limits to the number of VAWA self-petitions granted annually. However, recipients are still subject to the same procedural processing times consistent with the visa they were originally seeking. This means that unmarried children under the age of 21 and spouses of U.S. citizens will be considered “immediate relatives” and face no additional wait. Other family members will operate as “family preference relatives” and will need to wait for a visa to become available.

Successful VAWA self-petitions ultimately allow noncitizens to obtain lawful permanent residency. While waiting for their green card, beneficiaries will be granted deferred action and work authorization, allowing them to continue living and working in the U.S. until their case has been adjudicated.

In order to qualify, VAWA self-petitioners will need to establish:

  • Their relationship to the abuser
  • The immigration status of the abuser (i.e. proving that they are a citizen or lawful permanent resident)
  • Residency with the abuser
  • Good moral character
  • That the marriage was entered into in good faith if the self-petitioning involves a marriage visa

If you have suffered abuse from a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or adult child, our team can help you explore your immigration options. We can determine if you qualify, gather the necessary evidence, and walk you through the self-petitioning process.

Removing Conditions as a “Battered Spouse”

Green cards issued to noncitizen spouses whose marriages are younger than 2 years are “conditional,” meaning that they expire after only 2 years versus the typical 10-year validity period. Conditions must be “removed” through another intense immigration process meant to flag cases of marriage fraud. However, there are situations where a marriage can become abusive in the intervening 2 years.

The ”battered spouse waiver” allows noncitizens with conditional green cards to remove conditions without the cooperation of their abusive spouse. The goal is to prevent situations where a noncitizen spouse feels forced to remain in a dangerous marriage in order to guarantee their lawful permanent residency. The waiver is generally granted if the noncitizen spouse can prove that abuse or cruelty has occurred and that the marriage was initially entered in good faith.

U Visas for Victims of Violent Crimes

U visas were created to assist law enforcement in the investigation of certain types of serious and violent crimes. U visas can be granted to noncitizens who have suffered physical, mental, or emotional abuse as a result of a violent crime. The visa entitles them to remain in the United States while the underlying crime is investigated. The beneficiary will be expected to cooperate with law enforcement and provide any pertinent information.

U visas can typically remain valid for as many as 4 years but can be extended even longer if law enforcement deems it necessary to aid in the investigation. Crucially, U visa holders are able to pursue lawful permanent residency once they have maintained at least 3 years of continuous presence in the United States and meet other requirements. Up to 10,000 U visas can be issued annually, but there is no limit on green cards for U visa beneficiaries.

In order to obtain a U visa, you must:

  • Have suffered physical, mental, or emotional abuse as a result of your being the victim of a qualifying crime
  • Have information about the crime
  • Be helpful or be willing to be helpful to the law enforcement agency investigating the crime
  • Obtain a certification from an individual or body participating in the investigation
  • Be otherwise admissible to the United States or qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility

Our Orlando VAWA attorneys can help you pursue a U visa if you have been the victim of a serious crime. U visas often allow for immediate, dependent relatives to remain in the United States with you, and our team can work to ensure your family stays together throughout any criminal investigation.

T Visas for Victims of Human Trafficking

Noncitizens exploited for purposes of commercial sex trafficking or involuntary servitude can receive immigration relief through T visas. The visa grants deferred action as well as work authorization, and many recipients also qualify for the same additional benefits as refugees, which include government benefits and employment support. As many as 5,000 T visas can be granted each year.

T visas are valid for up to 4 years but in some situations can be extended. T visa beneficiaries qualify for lawful permanent residency once they have maintained 3 years of continuous presence in the U.S. or when the investigation of their associated trafficking operation has concluded, whichever is shorter. In order to successfully obtain a green card through a T visa, recipients will need to cooperate with law enforcement throughout the investigation and generally demonstrate good moral character.

To obtain a T visa, you must:

  • Have been the victim of a “severe” form of trafficking (typically commercial sex trafficking or involuntary servitude)
  • Have become physically present in the United States as a result of that trafficking
  • Assist or be willing to assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the criminals involved in the trafficking if you at least 18 years of age
  • Demonstrate that you will experience extreme hardship if you are removed from the U.S.

Using VAWA “Cancellations of Removal”

VAWA extends some deportation protections to noncitizens who have been abused by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. “Cancellation of removal” can be pursued as a defense in removal proceedings and will involve proving the existence and extent of the abuse. In order to qualify, noncitizens will need to also demonstrate good moral character and that their deportation would confer extreme hardship.

Our Orlando VAWA lawyers at Angel Law Firm, PL can assist you in pursuing cancellations of removal if you have been placed in removal proceedings. We are compassionate to the uncertainty you are experiencing, and our team will explore every possible legal solution that keeps you and your family together in the United States.

We offer our legal services in both English and Spanish and are prepared to do whatever it takes to help. Call (407) 329-7711 or contact us online to start exploring your options.

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