google3786a12ef831f14a.html Immigration for Domestic Violence Victims | NJ | O'Neil Law


Brian O'Neill and the lawyers on his team have years of experience assisting undocumented victims of domestic violence acquire legal status in the United States. There are two paths to legal status for domestic violence victims.


                      VAWA Petitions



VAWA stands for the federal "Violence Against Women Act,” but VAWA relief is actually open to foreign citizens regardless of gender. It is available to undocumented spouses who are married to abusive US citizens (USCs) or permanent residents (LPRs). The foreign spouse must prove that he or she has been the victim of either physical violence or "extreme cruelty" at the hands of his or her USC or LPR spouse. A foreign spouse having such proof can file what is called a VAWA petition with the immigration service (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS).


The beauty of a VAWA petition is that the foreign spouse does not require the sponsorship or assistance of the abusing USC or LPR spouse. He or she can file it on their own, or "self-petition" as it is called. Moreover, the process is entirely confidential. Prevent further violence against the foreign spouse, USCIS will not contact the abusing US citizen or LPR spouse. The ability to self-petition is a truly great benefit under the VAWA statute.


At the same time that a VAWA petitioner files his or her petition (called an I-360, after the form number) in most cases the victim can also simultaneously file a separate permanent resident application (called an I-485) together with an application for temporary work authorization (an I-765). This means that a VAWA petitioner and permanent resident applicant can acquire the right to work and a form of legal identity in approximately 90 days after the petition and applications are filed with USCIS.


Processing times vary for these cases, depending on the strength of the underlying VAWA petition. Brian O'Neill has had some deserving clients get an approved VAWA petition in less than a month, and become a permanent resident within nine months, but more typically these cases take 18 months to two years.

Asylum Claims. In some cases female victims of domestic violence in their home countries can successfully pursue asylum claims in the United States.  Where the home country has a history of tolerating male violence against women in intimate relationships, US immigration law recognizes that these female victims may be members of a “particular social group” (PSG) who can assert successful asylum claims.  Women from certain countries in Central America and South Asia are strong candidates for asylum wherever their personal histories include domestic violence at the hands of male partners.  

In any of these situations, Brian O'Neill and the lawyers on his team have the knowledge and expertise necessary to assist domestic violence and other crime victims up the path to permanent legal status in the United States.

U-Visa Petitions. U visa petitions (I-918) also provide a path to permanent residence for domestic violence victims. However, they are not just available in the domestic violence setting. Any undocumented alien who has been the victim of certain kinds of severe criminal conduct, including domestic violence, can file a petition for a U visa, which can eventually result in a successful I-485 application for the victim and members of the victim's immediate family. However, in these cases, unlike VAWA petitions, the victim cannot self-petition. An essential component of a successful U visa petition is a certification (called an I-918, Supp. B) by local law enforcement authorities that the victim has provided material assistance that was helpful in bringing the perpetrator to justice.


Here again, Brian O'Neill and the lawyers on his team have the knowledge and expertise necessary to assist domestic violence and other crime victims up the path to permanent legal status in the United States.

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