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Last Updated: Jul 5, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Violence Against Women

Scared battered women looking around a corner

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows battered immigrants to petition for legal status in the United States without relying on an abusive U.S.citizen or legal permanent resident spouses, parents or children to sponsor their applications. The purpose of the VAWA program is to allow victims the opportunity to “self-petition” or independently seek legal immigration status in the U.S.

More information can be found on the US Citizenship & Immigration Services website.

Help is also available from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD). The hotline has information about shelters, mental health care, legal advice and other types of assistance, including information about filing for immigration status. For more information, visit the National Domestic Violence website.


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Introduction to Immigration

There are many free resources available for people immigrating to the United States from Mexico. This page lists the most common types of immigration status with links to more detailed information and community organizations that provide free legal services.


President Trump's Executive Orders

Since taking office, President Trump has issued several Executive Orders impacting Immigration.

Learn from our friends at the San Diego County Bar Association about what these Executive Orders mean and where you can find more information. 

Recent Executive Orders on Immigration


Working or Attending School In The US

Working in the US

The United States welcomes thousands of foreign workers in multiple occupations or employment categories every year. These include artists, researchers, cultural exchange participants, information technology specialists, religious workers, investors, scientists, athletes, nurses, agricultural workers and others. All foreign workers must obtain permission to work legally in the United States. Each employment category for admission has different requirements, conditions and authorized periods of stay.

Going to School in the US

If you wish to pursue full-time academic or vocational studies in the United States, you may be eligible for one of two nonimmigrant student categories. The “F” category is for academic students and the “M” is for vocational students. If you wish to participate in an exchange program you may be eligible for the “J” category for exchange visitors. The J visa program is for educational and cultural exchange programs.


Permanent Resident Status / Green Card Status

A Green Card holder (permanent resident) is someone who has been granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. As proof of that status, a person is granted a permanent resident card, commonly called a "Green Card." You can become a permanent resident several different ways. Most individuals are sponsored by a family member or employer in the United States. Other individuals may become permanent residents through refugee or asylee status or other humanitarian programs. In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself.


U.S. Citizenship Through Naturalization

Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

For more information, see USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance.

Naturalization Test

During the Naturalization process you will take an English and civics test unless you qualify for an exemption or waiver. The English test has three components: reading, writing, and speaking. The civics test covers important U.S. history and government topics. There are study materials available online and self tests to help you prepare. Find local classes to help you prepare for the exam.


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.

Guidelines for requesting DACA


Text and Treatise Resources Available at the Library

We have numerous resources available in our print and electronic collections. 

General Immigration Materials 

Resources on Residency and Naturalization

Asylum Resources

Most of our immigration titles are on the 2nd floor of the downtown location, around KF4800.Our Librarians and Staff can assist you in locating these and other relevant materials in our Library and online databases. Just ask!


Immigration Resource Directory from California Courts


The Wrong Help Can Hurt



Make sure you are on a government website or working with a reputable attorney. Unfortunately there has been an increase in immigration scams across the country. If you are working with someone, protect yourself by asking questions and checking credentials. Also, make sure to only deal with official government agencies and websites like those recommended in this guide.


Victims of Trafficking & Violence

In October 2000, Congress created the “T” and "U" nonimmigrant status by passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). The legislation strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, and also offer protection to victims. 

The law created two categories of non-immigrant visas, U visa for victims of certain crimes and T visas for victims of trafficking. These visas provide temporary status to individuals in the United States who are victims of a severe form of trafficking or who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as victims of criminal activity.

You can find general information on T Visas and U Visas here.

Scared battered women looking around a corner


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