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There’s a special visa for immigrant spouses in abusive marriages

It is hard for victims of domestic violence to break free from their relationships. Fear about what the end of the relationship might mean for your safety could force you to stay for years with someone who is physically or emotionally abusive.

If your residency in the country depends on your spouse, you may be even more nervous about leaving. Whether you enter the country on a fiance visa or through family preference immigration, you know that your right to stay in the United States is in large part due to your marriage.

It is common for immigrant victims of domestic violence and other crimes to think that they cannot leave their abuser or report their experiences to law enforcement authorities. However, there are programs created specifically to help immigrants who are also victims of crimes.

The U visa helps victims of crimes prosecute and leave their abuser

Most visa programs in the United States focus on your family relationships or your employment. However, the U visa is available solely to those who are the victims of certain criminal offenses. If an immigrant reports the crime they experienced and agrees to help in the prosecution of the perpetrator, they may potentially qualify for a visa that will let them stay in the country even if they divorce the spouse who helped them gain residency in the first place.

A U visa will generally last for four years and will give you an opportunity to seek care and support after enduring abuse while also rebuilding your life. You may apply for a Green Card if you qualify for a U visa.

What crimes qualify for a U visa?

Generally, only those who have experienced emotional or physical consequences of criminal activity have the right to apply for a U visa. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) tends to limit U visas to specific criminal offenses.

These include:

Sexual assault
Sexual exploitation
Rape
Incest
Domestic violence
Assault
Kidnapping
Illegal restraint
Trafficking
Prostitution

There is a more comprehensive list of offenses available on the USCIS website. Your spouse does not need to already have charges against them from you to seek a U visa. If you are in a dangerous or violent marriage and want to free yourself, looking into whether you might qualify for a U visa could be the first step toward safety.

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