If you enter the United States through a family visa or a fiance visa, your status largely depends on your relationship with the citizen or lawful permanent resident that you married. Unfortunately, that power imbalance sometimes leads to an abusive situation.
Whether your spouse has physically abused you, attempted to traffic you or sexually assaulted you, you may qualify for a special U visa as a victim of criminal activity.
The U visa protects victims and helps with the prosecution of their abusers
The government has an invested interest in seeing criminals punished, so they want to make it easy for the victims of crime to assist the government in its prosecution. Many immigrant spouses are in a very legally vulnerable position. They may think they have to endure abuse or lose their residency in the United States — and that simply isn’t so.
If the victim qualifies for a U visa, they can divorce their spouse and still stay in the United States. They must be the victim of a qualifying crime and assist the government in the prosecution of the perpetrator. Qualifying offenses include:
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting
- Involuntary servitude
- Sexual exploitation
- Unlawful criminal restraint
Victims of these and other crimes can ask for nonimmigrant status and stay in the United States for at least four years — and possibly longer — as they seek citizenship on their own.
Getting a U Visa can be a complex process
As with any other legal scenario involving domestic violence, your word on the matter likely isn’t enough evidence. You may need to document the abuse, obtain copies of medical records and file police reports in order to qualify.
An immigration attorney familiar with these highly-specialized visas can review your situation and help you determine if pursuing a U visa is the solution to your current marital hardship.