Latest Developments

New Standard for Domestic Violence Victims in Asylum Cases

A recent Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)  decision opened the door to victims of domestic violence to receive asylum based on their abusive relationships.  The BIA ruling stated that “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” formed a particular social group for the purposes of an asylum claim.  The BIA found that this group had two immutable characteristics: their marital status and their gender.  For a full summary of this case and the complete opinion, visit the NIWAP web library.  Also, be sure to check out Chapter 12 on gender-based asylum in our manual Empowering Survivors: Legal Rights of Immigrant Victims of Sexual Assault, which we have updated to include information about the BIA’s new ruling.  It is important to note that asylum law is a legally complex process.  To pursue a claim of gender-based asylum, it is critical to first contact an immigration attorney with expertise in immigration options for immigrant victims of crimes.  To locate programs with this expertise, contact NIWAP at 202-274-4457 or

New Legal Service Corporation (LSC) Regulations Improve Access to Legal Services for Immigrant Crime Victims

LSC amended their regulations in April 2014 to implement the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) 2005 expansions in access to legal services to immigrant crime victims under anti-abuse laws. Immigrant crime victims may receive help that is “directly related to preventing, healing from, ameliorating the effect of, and preventing future abuse.” The abuse covered under VAWA 2005 and these regulations includes battering or extreme cruelty, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking, and U visa criminal activity. The anti-abuse pathway to legal services under the new LSC regulations implementing VAWA 2005 allow immigrant crime victims to receive legal assistance on a wide range of legal matters, related to the prevention of, obtaining relief from, ameliorating the effects of, protection from or escaping abuse.  This includes immigration, family law, employment, public benefits, housing, healthcare,  abuse & neglect, or other matters connected to the abuse. Once an immigrant has filed for lawful permanent residency, they also qualify for legal representation on additional matters not related to the abuse based on their immigration status. For more information on the new LSC regulations, please see NIWAP’s summary.