Violence Against Women Act. VAWA

Violence Against Women Act. VAWA

What is Violence Against Women Act? (VAWA)

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted to protect victims of domestic violence, and it includes special provisions for those who do not have legal status in the United States. Domestic violence victims, including men and children, are protected by VAWA.

If you are being abused by a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident ("green card") Spouse, Parent, or Child (over 21), or if your child is being abused by a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident ("green card") Parent, VAWA can assist you in escaping violence and obtaining legal permanent status.

You can gain legal status without the support of your battered spouse or parent if certain immigration laws apply to you. US citizens and lawful permanent residents ("green card holders") are allowed by law to petition for legal status for their close family members.

How do I petition for citizenship or legal status through VAWA?

You can self-petition for status if you are a victim of domestic violence and your abuser is a citizen or lawful permanent resident ("green card holder") by filing the "I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant" form. You must also submit evidence to show that you meet the VAWA criteria in addition to this form. If you want to self-petition under VAWA laws, contact one of our immigration lawyer.

What are the requirements for VAWA?

Provided you have been abused by your spouse, you may self-petition for asylum if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are legally married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser, or you thought you were lawfully married to your abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, but the marriage was not valid;

  • Your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse has subjected you to battery or extreme cruelty:

    • Your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse has abused you, or

    • Your U.S. or permanent resident spouse has committed battery or shown serious cruelty to your child;

  • You married in good faith, which means you didn't marry merely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.

  • You've shared a home with your partner;

  • You have good moral character, which usually indicates you haven't broken any US laws or committed any severe crimes.

  • Provided you have been abused by your parent, you can self-petition for asylum if you meet the following criteria:

    • You are the kid of an abuser who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident;

    • Your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent has subjected you to battery or excessive cruelty;

    • You've lived with your controlling parent; and

    • You have good moral character, which usually indicates you haven't broken any US laws or committed any severe crimes. A child under the age of 14 is assumed to be a morally upright individual.

  • If your child has harmed you, you can self-petition for asylum if:

    • When the self-petition is filed, you are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who is at least 21 years old.

    • Your U.S. citizen son or daughter has assaulted you or treated you cruelly;

    • You've lived with the narcissistic child or child of a narcissist; and

    • You have good moral character, which usually indicates you haven't broken any US laws or committed any severe crimes.

What kind of evidence will I need?

Collecting the evidence you'll need can be difficult, but you should try to get as much of the following as you can without endangering yourself or others:

  • If you're submitting a petition because of an abusive spouse, you'll need your marriage certificate.

  • If you're filing because of an abusive parent or child, you'll need birth certificates.

  • Birth certificates of children, bills, leases, family photos, tax returns, and other evidence indicating you and the batterer lived together

  • Restraining or civil protection orders, police reports, medical documents, the batterer's criminal records, a letter from a battered women's program, counseling records, images of injuries or bruises, and affidavits of witnesses describing the abuse are all examples of proof of abuse.

  • Evidence of "excellent moral character," such as a criminal background check, a letter from your religious organization, or proof of community activity

  • A formal affidavit detailing the history of your relationship with the batterer is required.

What if my abuser has died, has lost their legal status, or I am divorced?

If your abuser has died, you still have two years to file a self-petition for legal status. If you are divorced, you still have two years to file a self-petition after the divorce is final. If your abuser's legal status has been revoked as a result of domestic violence, you can still file a self-petition with no time limits.

What if I am in immigration court?

You can file a self-petition or ask for "cancellation of removal," which is a different sort of remedy. Even if you are divorced from your battered husband at the time you apply, you may be granted cancellation of removal. You must also submit a regular self-petition AND establish that you have been in the United States for at least three years in order to be eligible for cancellation of deportation.

What if I have a conditional or temporary green card?

You will file a different petition, titled I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, if you have a conditional green card (valid for two years). You'll also need to explain why you and your abusive spouse aren't filing a joint petition together. For the I-360, you will need to present the same type of evidence as indicated above.

What if my abuser is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident or if I was never married to my batterer?

Even if your abuser is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you may be able to obtain legal status to protect yourself. For example, if you have been a victim of a crime and have been, or are willing to be, helpful in the investigation or prosecution of that crime, a U-visa (give link to larger section) is a pathway to legal status.

If you called the police, if your abuser was arrested, if you assisted the district attorney's office, if you testified in court against your abuser, or if you helped in some other way in a domestic violence scenario, you may be eligible for a U visa. You should speak with an immigration attorney regarding the U Visa.

What if my batterer is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or if I was never married to him, and I never reported the violence to the police or any agency?

If you are a victim of domestic abuse and do not qualify for VAWA or a U Visa, you should seek assistance from the police or other social services agencies if you are in danger. You should speak with an immigration attorney to discover if you are eligible for any other form of immigration benefit.

If you're looking for help, resources, or a secure haven for you and your children, go to:

Call SafeLink a 24-hour Hotline at 1-877-785-2020.

Conclusion

I hope this information was useful. Complex immigration processing can be incredibly complicated and stressful for everyone. Before filing this application, you should seek legal advice from an experienced attorney.

Immigrationservice.com can assist you and will be there for you every step of the journey. Please contact us via phone or email.