Avoiding removal as an immigrant experiencing abuse

Many people come to the United States because of family relationships. They qualify as an immigrant because a spouse or other family member has already entered the country or qualified for a visa. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues visas and eventually green cards to those with family members living in the United States.

However, there are some people who will misuse their position of authority after helping a loved one enter the United States for immigration purposes. They may begin to physically abuse a dependent family member or expose them to certain kinds of criminal activity, such as human trafficking.

Is your removal from the United States inevitable if the person who helped to enter the country abuses you?

The Violence Against Women Act helps many immigrants

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal statute that allows spouses, children and sometimes even parents. Those abused by someone who is a citizen or a lawful permanent resident can apply for a green card.

Those experiencing abuse in the home can self-petition the USCIS for protection under VAWA. If the person abusing you is your spouse, or if your spouse abuses your children, VAWA protections may apply to you. Children abused by their parents after entering the United States can also apply on their own behalf. Even parents who enter the country with the help of a child who is a citizen can apply for protection under VAWA.

If approved, these applicants can receive a green card and will be able to sever the relationship with the party abusing them.

U visas help those subject to criminal activity

In cases involving criminal activity, there is also a special nonimmigrant visa program for those who testify against an abuser or other offender and help convict them for criminal activities such as human trafficking or involuntary servitude. Victims of various criminal acts can qualify for U visas that allow them to stay in the United States.

You have to know your options to make use of them. Far too many immigrants in a vulnerable position stay trapped with someone mistreating them because they think they have no other options. Learning about your immigration opportunities can help you avoid removal and protect yourself from ongoing mistreatment.

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