VIDA’s mission is focused on the needs of immigrants and their loved ones who are also victims or survivors of violence or abuse, but the information below may be helpful to immigrants regardless of eligibility for VIDA’s services. Resources relating to the needs of survivors or victims can be found on our Resources for Survivors page.
UNDERSTANDING IMMIGRANT RIGHTS
If you are an immigrant survivor or victim, or have loved ones who are immigrants, you may need additional assistance to aid in your recovery. You have the right to live free of violence or abuse. Your immigration status can make you vulnerable to people who want to harm you. Abusers may use your immigration status as a way to assert their power and control over you. You do have basic rights as an immigrant, even if you are undocumented. Find out what you need to consider when making decisions as an immigrant.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Everyone, regardless of immigration status, is entitled to certain rights in the U.S. These basic rights allow you to be safe and live free from violence or abuse. As a survivor of violence or abuse, you may be entitled to additional rights and protections.
WHAT IMMIGRATION STATUS MEANS
Your immigration status is how you come to be here in the United States. You can be a citizen, permanent resident, visitor, part of a specific visa program (such as a student visa or work-related visa), undocumented, out of lawful status, and more. It describes your ability to exert your rights in the United States and be governed under its laws. There are many kinds of immigration status, including not having legal status or being undocumented, and you may have a different status from your loved ones. 1mas
CHANGING YOUR IMMIGRATION STATUS
Certain situations might lead to changing your immigration status. Experiencing severe violence or abuse may be a situation that entitles you to protections and/or enables you to change your immigration status. To change your immigration status in the U.S.,you must go through an immigration process with government agencies such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and other departments in charge of enforcing immigration law. The immigration process is different for everyone. It can be long and complicated, and the laws and procedures may change suddenly. For this reason, you should only seek help from qualified professionals with expertise in immigration law. They can provide you with the options available for your situation, guide you towards other resources, and help you make decisions about living in the U.S.
IMMIGRATION RELIEF FOR SURVIVORS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Survivors of violent crimes have special protections under U.S. immigration laws. This is meant to ensure that a person’s immigration status does not make them more vulnerable to actions that are against the law. This relief includes, but is not limited to, VAWA Self Petition, U-Visa, T-Visa, work permit, drivers’ license, and more. To protect your safety, it is confidential and your abuser will not be notified or included in the process. However, some types may require that authorities certify that a crime has been committed. You and your loved ones may qualify for this category of relief, or under a different category. It is critical that you seek help from a professional with experience in different areas of immigration law because it is a complex process.
INFORMATION & ASSISTANCE FOR IMMIGRANTS
For more information about immigrant rights and changing your immigration status; and for resources to help with your immigration case, check out our library.
PREPARING YOUR IMMIGRATION CASE
When you are ready to seek immigration help, you should gather documents that prove who you and your loved ones are, where you live, where you’re from, your relationship to the person who harmed you, your immigration status, property ownership, that you suffered violence or abuse, and more.
MANAGING YOUR IMMIGRATION CASE
Your immigration case may involve submitting applications and supporting documents, paying fees, responding to requests for additional information, and filing legal arguments to support your application. Some cases require filing multiple applications, each with their own sets of documents and fees. It is important that you notify your advocates, USCIS, and other officials of any changes to your contact information so that you can respond to any requests for more information. While your case is being processed, you can check its status to find out when materials were received, how long it will take to be reviewed, where to go for required documents, and more.
BEWARE OF SCAMS AND UNAUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVES
You need help fast and don’t know who to ask. It can be easy to fall victim to people who don’t have experience in immigration law. Some people want to steal your money; others don’t know what they’re doing and make mistakes on your case. The consequences to you and your family can be severe. You may lose thousands of dollars, and/or be at risk of deportation. Only seek assistance from a qualified professional with legal training in immigration law. This is usually an immigration attorney or BIA-accredited representative, or people being supervised by these types of professionals. In the U.S., a public notary does not have the necessary legal training to assist you with your case. Find out where to find qualified professionals, and how to protect yourself from fraud and scams.