Introducing U-Visas and VAWA

Introducing U-Visas and VAWA

Certain victims of crimes may be eligible for visas that protect them from deportation and even grant them legal permanent residency as long as they meet certain requirements. Some of the crimes that are actionable to request particular immigration visas include, but are not limited to, domestic violence, felonious assault, abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, extortion, false imprisonment, kidnapping, murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, trafficking, and witness tampering.

There are two types of visas that victims of crimes may apply for, which will ultimately provide them with legal permanent residency. These visas are:

  • U-Visa: These types of visas are reserved for those who are victims of serious crimes like the ones described above.
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Visa: This visa is meant for victims of domestic abuse, including spouses, parents, and children of U.S. citizens or Legal Permanent Residents. 

It should be noted that some victims will fall under multiple visa categories, meaning that they may qualify for either visa mentioned above. Often attorneys combine both visas to bring the ultimate objective, legal permanent status.

To this effect, it would be prudent to know what are the benefits and limitations of each visa type.

U Visas are Limited by Congress, While VAWA Self-Petitions are Not Limited (With Some Exceptions)

For VAWA related visa petitions, the U.S. Immigration office does not hold any restrictions on the number of times a petition is granted. The only exception exists if the abusive family member was a legal permanent resident and not a United States citizen.

For U-Visa purposes, the United States Congress has limited the number of U-Visas to 10,000 per year. For U-Visa cases, an applicant’s applications are set aside for years if a U-Visa is not available the same year the U-Visa application was submitted. You can see how this makes the application process take a long time for its adjudication. For example, as of this writing, a U-Visa application submitted in 2016 is only being adjudicated now. This means that a person who submitted his or her application in 2016 is now only receiving word from the immigration department as to whether the application will be favorably or unfavorably adjudicated. 

There Are Less Requirements to Meet for VAWA Visa Applications Than U Visa Applicants

Any individual falling under a VAWA case may be eligible for a green card even if there was no cooperation with the police department or the district attorney’s office. This is not the case for U visa applicants where they had to have aided the police department, the district attorney’s office, or the FBI in the investigation or prosecution of the case.

For VAWA purposes, for cases wherein the spouse is the abuser, the spouse must either be a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident. This is not the case for U visa applicants, where the abuser does not have to be a United States citizen or legal permanent resident.


We hope this article has helped clear some things up when it comes to applying for U-Visas and VAWA. If you qualify for a U visa or  VAWA, please take the necessary steps to apply for either of the above mentioned visas. We also suggest hiring an immigration attorney as their experience and expertise in their field will help make the entire process easier for you.

If you’re looking for the best immigration lawyer in San Diego, book an appointment today with the San Diego Immigration Law Office. We are a full-service immigration law firm for your immigration needs. Please contact us today so we can help you fulfill your dreams.