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Final Restraining Orders (FRO) can be used to help substantiate claims in the petition/application process for U-visas and Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA). There are many avenues for domestic violence victims to gain protection from their abusers; however, there are few avenues for immigrant domestic violence victims to gain legal residency in the United States. By coupling a FRO with an application for a U-visa or a petition for Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) under VAWA, immigrant domestic violence victims can have protection from their abusers.
Consider Diana’s case
Diana, a Mexican national, came to the United States on a tourist visa; however, she fell in love with an US citizen and let her visa expire. Shortly after entering the relationship, Diana’s partner began physically abusing her. In one instance, Diana was at the hospital for surgery and her partner attacked her there. Hospital employees called the police, Diana’s partner fled and Diana finally took action. She secured a restraining order against her abuser. Before this final attack, Diana was scared to go to the police because of her undocumented status. Through the FRO and family service support, Diana learned about her options for obtaining legal status in the United States.
It doesn’t have to be just physical abuse
Diana’s case is an example of extreme physical abuse, similar examples hard shoves, smacks or throwing things at you. It could be emotional or psychological: your partner is yelling at you, calling you stupid or tell you that you’re worthless. It could be sexual: your partner rapes you. It could be economic: your partner withholds access to money from you. It is rarely just one example.
Whatever the abuse may be, it is not your fault, you need protection and you need help. If you are an immigrant and do not want to report the abuse for fear of deportation, do not worry. There are ways for you to gain legal status in the United States by reporting the crimes against you.
How to Use the FRO
The U-visa and VAWA are avenues for immigrant victims of domestic to obtain legal status in the United States. To be granted a U-Visa or Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) under VAWA, you must show that you have suffered abuse. In Diana’s situation the police were called to the scene at the hospital and she did the smart thing to request a restraining order that ultimately became a FRO. The FRO then becomes proof that she was a victim of domestic violence. It is objective proof. Of course, an affidavit of support from the nurse that witnesses the abuse and called the police doesn’t hurt either.
If I am involved in a case from its inception, I use the FRO trial to lay the foundation for a subsequent U-Visa or VAWA application for my client. I bring witnesses, photographs, and evidence that support a finding of Domestic Violence. I then order the transcript and attach it to the U-Visa or VAWA petition in addition to the trial exhibits. This is makes it much easier to get the Law Enforcement Certificate from the police, prosecutor, or judge. Once we have the certification, we submit the package to immigration for approval.
If you are a victim of Domestic Violence there is help for you. There is a national hotline and in Monmouth County 180 Turning Lives Around is ready to help. Select the link for their contact information. If you think a loved one has been a victim of Domestic Violence, see this article for signs.