An individual who has been the victim of certain serious criminal activity, has suffered substantial abuse as a result, and has been helpful to law enforcement in the investigation, may be eligible to apply for a U visa. Unlike most visa categories, a U visa is available to individuals currently without lawful immigration status, without the need for a hardship waiver appointment in their country of origin. This visa may be granted for up to four years. After three years the individual may be able to apply for permanent residency.
The VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) added provisions to the law which allow battered spouses, children, or parents of U.S. permanent resident or citizen abusers to self-petition to become permanent residents. In some circumstances, they may even be able to self-petition after the marriage has ended or the abuser has lost their permanent resident status or citizenship.