WomensLaw is not just for women. We serve and support all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Important: Some courts are hearing cases virtually due to COVID. See our FAQ on Courts and COVID-19.

Legal Information: Federal


View all
January 30, 2018

Can I get U visa status even if the abuser is undocumented? What if we are not married?

Yes. The immigration status of the abuser does not matter for U visa status (unlike protections offered under VAWA). The abuser can be undocumented, or s/he can be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Also, unlike VAWA, you do not have to be married to the abuser to be eligible for U visa status.1 If you were abused by an intimate partner, the only thing that matters is that you meet the qualifications for getting U visa status as explained in the Eligibility section.

Note: Here you can see our series of vlogs (videos) in Spanish, with English subtitles, where we discuss what is a U visa, what are the requirements to get a U visa and what crimes qualify someone to get a U visa, among other related topics.

1 INA § 101(a)(15)(U)

If I have been the victim of domestic violence, do I apply for VAWA or for a U visa?

It depends.  You may be eligible for both and then it’s up to you and your attorney which one you want to pursue (or both).  You may be eligible to obtain lawful status through a VAWA self-petition if:

  • Your spouse is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and has abused you;
  • Your spouse is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and has abused your child;
  • You are a child (under 21 years old and unmarried) of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who has abused you; OR
  • You are the parent of a U.S. citizen who has abused you.1

(Victims of domestic violence who are not married to the abuser, or who have been abused by a spouse who is not a U.S. citizen nor a lawful permanent resident, are not eligible to self-petition under VAWA.  For more information on eligibility requirements for VAWA, see VAWA self-petition.)

You may also be able to file for U visa status if you have been, are being, or will be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of a crime, including domestic violence, and meet all other requirements regardless of the immigration status of the abuser.2

You should discuss your options with an immigration lawyer with experience in VAWA and U visas before you file papers with USCIS to determine what would be the best option in your case.  To find help, please go the Immigration page of the National Organizations section.  If your lawyer needs assistance, s/he can call ASISTA for help.
1 INA § 204(a)(1)(A) & (B)
2 INA § 101(a)(15)(U)

I got U visa status based on a crime committed against me by my spouse but now we have gotten back together. Can I apply for the abuser (my spouse) to get status as a derivative?

No. The person who has committed the crime for which you are applying for U visa status will not qualify for U visa status.1

1 8 CFR § 214.14(a)(iii)