Immigration and Refugee Services


Domestic Violence: Immigration Laws

Domestic violence reaches all segments of our society. Unfortunately, many people who come to America with hopes of better lives find themselves in abusive relationships. Because their right to reside in the United States is dependent on their spouse's status as a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), many victims of domestic violence and sexual assault may be afraid to seek help. Immigrants who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault should know that HELP IS AVAILABLE.

Safety Options and Resources

You can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 
Someone is available to speak to you at any time. The call is free and confidential.

You can call the police. If you are being hurt, you can call 911 and the officer will help you. When the officer arrives, you may ask the officer to transport you to a hospital, shelter, or magistrate. A magistrate is an officer of the court who can issue emergency protective orders and warrants.

You can ask for a protective order. Protective orders are orders from a judge or magistrate to the abusive person to stop the abuse. Protective orders also can require the abuser not to contact you or to allow you to use a vehicle that you and the abuser own together.

Will I have to leave my home if I seek help?
No one will force you to leave your home. If you choose to stay, you should talk to someone from a domestic violence organization to determine the best way to stay safe while at home. Call the Hotline at 1-800-838-8238 for more information. You should know that most victims of abuse believe that leaving was the most helpful way to achieve safety.

Will I be deported if I seek help?                                        
If you are undocumented or are unsure of your immigration status, you should talk to an immigration attorney. In any case, calling the Hotline will not place you in danger of deportation, and police will help you if you call them in an emergency.

Even if you are reported to authorities, you will have the opportunity to tell authorities about the abuse. "Cancellation of removal" is available for some victims of abuse when deportation proceedings have already begun. Remember, your safety is important. Get help and be sure to speak to an immigration attorney, an immigration counselor or BIA Accredited Representative who works through a known organization or non-profit."   Can I get a green card without the help of my spouse?
Victims of abuse who are married to U.S. citizens or LPRs can file for their residency status (green card) on their own behalf and on behalf of their children. This is called the self-petitioning process.

How do I self-petition?
You must complete an immigration form and file supporting documents. There is also a fee to apply, but you may be eligible for a fee waiver. Please talk to an immigration attorney for additional information and assistance.

Can I get a work permit?                                         
Yes. Self-petitioners and their children who have been approved through the self-petitioning process are eligible for a work permit.

I can't afford an attorney. What do I do?
There are several organizations serving Virginia that offer immigration assistance for free or for a low cost. The names and contact information for these organizations are listed below. Also, someone at the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238 may be able to refer you to other places that assist immigrants.

What if my spouse is not a U.S. citizen or LPR or I was never married to my abuser? You may be eligible for a U type visa when they become available. U visas will be available for victims of all crimes if they have information that will be helpful in the prosecution of the perpetrator of the crime and have suffered substantial injury. Again, speak to an immigration attorney for more information and assistance.

For more information, visit the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) website.


Local Immigration and Refugee Services

Refugee and Immigration Services: Catholic Diocese of Richmond

Immigration Counseling

Refugee and Immigration Services (RIS) provides low cost immigration counseling in the Greater Richmond, Hampton Roads, Roanoke Valley, and Harrisonburg, Virginia areas. 

In each location Refugee and Immigration Services employs an immigration counselor or an attorney who specializes in immigration counseling. The RIS immigration counseling program is accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Immigration Counseling Services are provided for a fee on a sliding scale basis. However, no client is turned away because of inability to pay.

Funding provided by the Virginia Law Foundation.

Services include:

  • Petitions for relatives and family reunification
  • Domestic Violence Cases (VAWA)
  • Asylum applications
  • Work authorization applications
  • Permanent residency applications
  • Citizenship applications
  • Answers to immigration inquiries and referrals
  • Assistance with visa processing for relatives abroad
  • Re-entry permits
  • Temporary Protective Status
  • Extension of stay
  • Interpreter service
  • Fiancee visa petitions
  • Affidavit of support
  • Replacement of lost green cards
  • Extension of visitor’s visa
  • Freedom of Information Act
  • Translations

For more information, contact your nearest Refugee and Immigration Services office:  

Richmond 811 Cathedral Place Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 355-4559

Roanoke 820 Campbell Ave., SW Hampton VA 23661 (757) 247-3600

Hampton 1615 Kecoughtan Road Hampton, VA 23661 (757) 247-3600

Harrisonburg Blessed Sacrament Church 154 North Main Street Harrisonburg, VA 22802
(540) 434-0849

Obtained from Refugee and Immigration Services, Catholic Diocese of Richmond

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