Information for Non-U.S. Citizens
Any victim of sexual violence, trafficking, or other crimes can and should seek help, despite their immigration or citizenship status.
Non-citizens are particularly vulnerable to crimes like domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking, and they regularly become victims of crime while living in the United States. Abusers, criminals, and traffickers often take advantage of a foreign national’s immigration status to avoid detection from law enforcement.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
All people in the United States regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, ethnicity, or immigration status are guaranteed protection from abuse. Any victim of domestic violence – regardless of immigration or citizenship status – is encouraged to seek help. Please do not be afraid to report a crime or pursue immigration benefits due to concerns of continued abuse, deportation, other negative consequences, or because of not understanding U.S. law.
U.S. law provides several protections and specific benefits for legal and undocumented non-citizen victims of domestic and sexual violence in the United States. Most organizations provide assistance confidentially in order to protect victims and their families. No one will be told that you are seeking help or immigration benefits, including your abuser, your family, or anyone else. Furthermore, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must maintain the confidentiality of non-citizen victims applying for these federal immigration benefits.
Immigration Protections Available for Victims:
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
VAWA allows battered immigrants to petition for legal status in the United States.
Congress enacted the immigration provisions within VAWA after recognizing that an immigrant victim of domestic violence is more likely to remain in an abusive relationship because her or his immigration status is tied to the abuser. Non-citizen victims are often threatened with deportation and may be too afraid to ask for help.
VAWA provides a way for non-citizen victims of domestic violence to apply for legal immigration status without the knowledge or assistance of the abusers.
Who is Eligible to Apply for Relief Under VAWA
- Abused spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPR or green card holder)
- Non-abused spouses of U.S. citizens or LPRs (green card holders) whose children were or are abused
- Abused children of U.S. citizens or LPRs
- Abused “intended spouses” of U.S. citizens or LPRs who are not legally married solely due to the abuser’s bigamy
- Abused parents of U.S. citizens (abused parents of LPRs do not qualify under VAWA)
What is Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence can be described as violent or aggressive behavior within a home, typically involving a spouse or other family member.
Abusers often engage in behaviors that frighten, intimidate, blame, terrorize, humiliate, hurt, wound, and/or physically injure another person. Abuse may include physical harm, psychological and emotional manipulation, forced sexual relations, isolation, intimidation, and threats related to economic security or immigration status.
U Nonimmigrant Status (U visa)
The U nonimmigrant visa is available to victims of serious crimes who cooperate with authorities investigating or prosecuting criminal activity.
Requirements to Qualify
- You are a non-citizen who suffered substantial mental or physical harm as a crime victim;
- You possess credible information about the crime that occurred;
- You have helped, are helping, or will help law enforcement; and
- The qualifying crime violates U.S. federal or state law.
- Domestic violence
- Abduction Torture
- Kidnapping Trafficking
- Being held hostage Abusive sexual contact
- Unlawful criminal restraint Sexual assault
- False imprisonment Rape
- Blackmail Incest
- Extortion Forced prostitution
- Obstruction of justice Sexual exploitation
- Witness tampering Peonage
- Manslaughter Female genital mutilation
- Felonious assault
T Nonimmigrant Status (T Visa)
T Visa protects victims of human trafficking and allows victims to remain in the United States to assist in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking.
Congress created the T visa classification to help protect victims of human trafficking and stop the continuation of human trafficking. The T visa helps law enforcement agencies investigating and prosecuting human traffickers by allowing non-citizen trafficking victims to stay in the United States and assist law enforcement authorities.
Requirements to Qualify
- You are the victim of a severe form of human trafficking;
- You are physically present in the United States because of human trafficking;
- You would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if you were removed from the United States;
- and At least one of the following applies:
- You comply with any reasonable requests for help with trafficking investigations;
- You are under 18 years old; or
- You are unable to assist law enforcement due to trauma caused by the trafficking.
Note: The materials provided here are for informational and educational purposes only. This information is intended, but not guaranteed, to be current or complete and should not be read as a promise for future results. The information contained here does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion and should not be considered as such.
For further guidance or to obtain a list of key resources, such as legal aid, social services, law enforcement, and government agencies that can help, reach out to one of the following resources:
Office of International Services (OIS)
Office of International Affairs (OIA)
Any of the campus counseling resources found under Get Help
Campus Diversity Offices
Office of the Vice President and General Counsel
USCIS Fact Sheet: USCIS Issues Guidance for Approved Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Self-Petitioners
USCIS Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status
USCIS Victims of Human Trafficking: T Nonimmigrant Status