Survivors of Domestic Violence and Other Crimes

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Unit, or Domestic Violence Unit, provides direct representation to immigrant survivors of violence seeking immigration benefits. While the VAWA Unit handles several hundred immigration cases per year, the demand for assistance continues to be greater than the available resources meaning there is a long waitlist for clients seeking help.

The primary types of cases handled by the VAWA Unit include: U Visa Petitions; T Visa Petitions; VAWA Self-Petitions; and Petitions for Waiver to Remove Conditions on Residency; as well as Removal (Deportation) Defense in Immigration Court.  The VAWA Unit collaborates very closely with other Domestic Violence Agencies in the region.


The Right to be Free of Violence

Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) in 1994, and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (“VTVPA”) in 2000 to protect victims of violence and ensure that their immigration status does not make them dependent on their abusers. There are four groups of immigrant survivors who are protected under these laws:

  • Victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence and sexual assault, and their families;
  • Spouses, children, and parents of abusive United States citizens or lawful permanent residents;
  • Immigrant children in foster care who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned;
  • Immigrant survivors of violence who are in removal (deportation) proceedings


NWIRP Protects Rights

NWIRP ensures access to life-changing forms of immigration relief for survivors of domestic violence and other crimes:

  • NWIRP files affirmative applications (Self-Petitions) before United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) for abused spouses, children, and parents of abusive United States citizens and lawful permanent residents.
  • NWIRP helps survivors of crimes file for U Visas – a form of immigration relief for non-citizens who have been victims of certain crimes and who assist in the investigation and prosecution of those crimes.
  • NWIRP works with immigrant youth in foster care to file applications for “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.” For more information about our work with these cases, please see our Children and Youth Services page.
  • If immigrant survivors of domestic violence are in removal (deportation) proceedings, NWIRP fights the deportation through applications for relief. These applications are also based on immigration relief available under VAWA and VTVPA.


Lizbeth's Story

NWIRP has been a part of my family for almost 10 years.
Not only have they helped me and my sister escape abuse and access important services, they have gone above and beyond to make us feel like family.

Lizbeth and Tania
Lizbeth (right) with her sister, Tania (left)


I am from La Paz, in Mexico. It’s a beautiful city in Baja California and was a wonderful place to grow up. When I was a little girl, my mother moved to the United States. I stayed in Mexico with my extended family and younger sister.

Being separated from my mother was hard, but I got to visit her in Seattle several times. During one of these visits when I was 16, I noticed something was wrong. Her husband had become abusive. He had been hurting my mother. Pushing her. Yelling. Instead of going back to Mexico, I decided to stay and help her.

Soon after that, he started hurting me as well. I was so scared but I knew we had to get away from him. One day his abuse got so bad that the cops arrested him and we went to a women’s shelter. At the shelter, we were overwhelmed with support. And after finding out that I was undocumented, our social worker put us in touch with Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. I was so excited to find out there was an organization that could help me.

When my attorney told me there was a way I could stay in the country legally, I was overjoyed. The immigration system is very complicated, but NWIRP was a compass that helped me navigate my way through it. NWIRP’s support helped me get a green card, which opened so many doors for me. From small things like allowing me to apply for a credit card, to large things like helping me to get a job and apply to become a U.S. Citizen.

I just graduated from Seattle University and can finally pursue my dream of getting my master’s degree in business. And when my little sister came to stay with us in the United States, they helped her with her DACA application.

NWIRP has been a part of my family for almost 10 years. Not only have they helped me and my sister escape abuse and access important services, they have gone above and beyond to make us feel like family.

I am so grateful for NWIRP and am so excited for my future.