Marrying a permanent resident or a United States citizen is a common way to enter the country. Some people also receive spousal visas if their spouse takes a job in the United States. Family disputes may also arise in any marriage. When your residency in the United States is dependent on your marital relationship, you may feel like you can’t leave your spouse or divorce.
Those suffering from domestic violence at the hands of their spouse often feel powerless. Being in a country where you don’t have a well-developed support network can make the situation even harder. Many immigrant victims of domestic abuse feel like they cannot leave both because of threats to their safety and to their residency.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recognizes that domestic violence and criminal activity can affect immigrants. If you are the victim of domestic violence, trafficking or other criminal activity, you may qualify for a U nonimmigrant visa. If you do, you can leave your abusive spouse and still stay in the United States.
Who qualifies for a U visa?
The USCIS will grant a U visa to victims of certain crimes who helped in the prosecution of the criminal. Typically, you need to have suffered physical or emotional abuse due to the criminal activity. You can stay in the United States and get justice if you qualify for a U visa.
What criminal offenses are part of the U visa program?
Not all criminal activity will lead to a U visa. Simple theft crimes, for example, likely won’t affect your immigration options. However, how many violent offenses can qualify a victim for U visas.
These offenses include:
- Domestic violence
- Abusive sexual contact
- False imprisonment
- Involuntary servitude
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting
- Sexual assault
- Unlawful criminal restraint
- Sexual exploitation
You should not have to live in fear for your safety. You also should not have to choose between leaving your abuser and losing your right to be in the United States. Getting help with the process of applying for a U visa could be the first step toward freedom and healing.