Research Shows the Transformative Effect of the VAWA and U Visa Programs


The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and U Visa immigration programs were created by the United States government in an effort to promote the safety and protection of victims of violent crimes in the United States. You may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence through the VAWA self-petitioner program if you are a victim of violence or extreme cruelty committed by a spouse, parent, or child who is a United States citizen. You may be eligible to apply for a U visa if you are a victim of a qualifying crime committed in the United States, you have suffered mental or physical abuse, and you have been cooperative with law enforcement through the investigation of the crime. Both the VAWA and U visa programs allow victims of crime, particularly violent crimes such as domestic abuse and felonious assault, the opportunity to gain legal residency and bring their abuser to justice in the United States.


The National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project conducted a survey on over 11,000 VAWA and U Visa applicants nationwide. According to the American University Washington College of Law, a key goal of this study was to learn how survivor applicants, their children, the justice system, and the communities of survivors benefit from the VAWA and U visa programs. This study documents the resilience and success of VAWA and U visa applicants, documents how and when the VAWA and U visa programs provide the foundation on which survivors transform their lives, and charts survivors’ improved functioning, stability, and integration into the social fabric of this country.


The study found that the most significant changes occurred when VAWA and U visa applicants were protected from deportation and granted legal work authorization. The NIWAP found many measurable changes that occurred after applicants gained protection from deportation and work authorization through VAWA and U Visa:

  • 74% reduction in immigration-related abuse

  • 78% less threats to cut off victim from children

  • 65% reduction in perpetrators using immigration status against the victim in custody cases

  • 22% of survivors are actively involved in helping other victims access help and justice

  • 300% increase in jobs that pay at least minimum wage

  • 542% increase in formal sector jobs that deduct taxes

  • 43% secure jobs with health insurance, sick leave and vacation benefits

  • 226% increase in survivors taking ESL classes

  • 167% increase working to improve speaking English

  • 60% attend social events with people from the U.S.

  • 35% obtain GEDs,

  • 38% pursue AAs and BAs, and 21% receive vocational education

  • 6.6 fold increase in survivors involvement in their children’s schools;

  • Increased percentage of VAWA and U visa survivors with mental health improvements who: sleep better 300%, are calmer 300%, more focused 280%; have more energy 188%, are less depressed 183%, are more at ease 162%; more independent 261%, stand up for themselves 225%, its easier for them to make decisions 432% and are more hopeful 130%;

  • 13 fold increase in reengagement with the survivors cultural community in the U.S.;

  • 80% increase in engaging with people in their communities outside of the abuser’s family including friends and neighbors, and 22% volunteer in their communities


The VAWA and U visa immigration programs clearly have a beneficial impact on survivors of violent crimes, their families, and their communities. If you or a loved one may qualify for one of these programs, reach out to Mil Mujeres Legal Services for assistance today.