Domestic violence can affect anybody. Victims come from all walks of life, speak any language and live in any country. That includes immigrants living in the United States, who face many challenges when it comes to reporting these types of crimes.

The U.S. government, however, has a visa program specifically meant for victims of serious crimes. That includes survivors of domestic abuse.

The basics of a U visa

The U nonimmigrant visa – often called the U visa – is specifically for victims of serious crimes. A U visa grants the holder temporary immigration status, including work authorization. It also allows certain family members to apply for similar protections, and in some cases can lead to a green card.

Who can get a U visa? People who were victims of a qualifying crime. A list of those crimes is provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There are many possibilities, all of them quite serious, including:

  • Sexual abuse
  • A serious assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Foreign labor contracting fraud
  • Prostitution
  • Involuntary servitude
  • Human trafficking
  • Stalking

This is not the full list but provides some examples. As you can see, domestic violence is one of the qualifying crimes.

Other requirements for a U visa

Being the victim of a crime is not quite enough to get a U visa. In addition, an applicant has to meet other requirements.

First, the person must have suffered significant physical injuries or emotional damage because of the crime. The person must also have information about what happened, and provide help to investigators who are prosecuting the crime.

Getting a green card

A U visa is valid for four years. However, if someone with a U visa remains in the U.S. for three years in a row, and continues to help with the investigation, they might be eligible to apply for permanent residence – meaning a green card. Family members, such as children, might also qualify in some circumstances.

Domestic violence can impact someone’s life in many ways. A survivor of domestic violence has legal options. That might include filing a petition to ensure they are safe, changing child custody or pursuing a U visa. Everybody deserves help, regardless of their immigration status.