VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT (VAWA) AND U VISAS
Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed by Congress in 1994, the spouses and children of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residency. The immigration provisions of VAWA allow certain battered immigrants to file for immigration relief without the abuser's assistance or knowledge, in order to seek safety and independence from the abuser.
In November 2000, the Violence Against Women Act II was passed into law. Among other things, this law 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 abuse.
The VAWA II also created a new category of non-immigrant visa. To be eligible for this “U” visa, the applicant must have suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse” because of a variety of crimes, including domestic abuse and involuntary servitude. The applicant must have information relating to this crime that would be of assistance to law enforcement in investigating or prosecuting it. There is an annual limit of 10,000 U visas. U visa holders are work authorized, and are able to apply for adjustment of status after three years.