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Immigration Options for Victims of Gender-Based Violence

Victims of violence may find it difficult to come forward and work with law enforcement because of trauma they may have experienced and may need help to feel safe and secure. For noncitizens without legal status or with a temporary immigration status unrelated to the harm they have experienced (for example, students), immigration relief stabilizes a victim’s status in the United States, which may help them to feel secure enough to report the crime and allow them to remain in the United States to assist with the investigation and prosecution of criminals and to access victim assistance services.

Multiple forms of immigration relief may be available to victims of GBV. The list below is not exhaustive, but it includes the immigration benefits most commonly available to people who have experienced GBV. Information about additional programs is available on the Humanitarian webpage of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

A severe form of trafficking in persons means sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act is under the age of 18 years; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

T nonimmigrant status (also known as a T visa) is a temporary immigration benefit that allows certain victims of a severe form of trafficking to remain in the United States for an initial period of up to 4 years if they have complied with any reasonable request for assistance from law enforcement in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of human trafficking (unless they qualify for an exemption or exception to such assistance). T nonimmigrant status may also be available to certain qualifying family members of trafficking victims. T nonimmigrants are eligible for employment authorization and certain federal and state benefits and services. T nonimmigrants who qualify may also be able to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents (obtain a Green Card). For more information, visit the Victims of Human Trafficking: T Nonimmigrant Status webpage.

U nonimmigrant status (also known as a U visa) is a temporary immigration benefit that is available to victims of certain qualifying crimes in the United States who have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful to certifying agencies in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity, and meet other requirements. The U visa is a tool intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute certain types of crimes while also protecting crime victims and encouraging them to come forward and assist law enforcement.

Certain qualifying family members may be eligible for a derivative U visa based on their relationship to the principal applicant. U nonimmigrant status is valid for 4 years and can be extended in limited circumstances; recipients are also eligible for employment authorization. U nonimmigrants may be able to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents (obtain a Green Card) if they qualify. To learn more, visit the Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status webpage.

VAWA protection is available to certain noncitizens with a qualifying relationship under the family-based immigration system. The family-based immigration process generally requires U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (the “Petitioner”) to file a petition for their noncitizen family members (the “Beneficiary”). U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident abusers may misuse this process to abuse their noncitizen family members by threatening to withhold or withdraw the petition in order to control, coerce, or intimidate them.

With the passage of VAWA in 1994 and later reauthorizations, Congress enabled certain noncitizens who have been abused by their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative to request immigration benefits without the abuser’s knowledge, consent, or participation in the immigration process. This pathway allows victims to seek safety and independence from their abusers and is available to qualifying individuals regardless of gender. More information is available on the Abused Spouses, Children and Parents webpage.


DHS does not endorse the services of any particular organization.

Last Updated: 01/24/2024
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