On many occasions, immigrant victims of domestic abuse choose to remain in an abusive relationship because their immigration status is dependent on the abuser.
Battered immigrant spouses of abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses, can obtain documented status and freedom from violence through the Violence Against Women Act, commonly referred to as VAWA. Instead of relying on the abusive spouse for legal status, an abused immigrant may self-petition for a visa that leads to lawful permanent resident status. This process known as “self petitioning” removes control from the abuser and allows the victim to submit his or her own application that is filed without the abuser’s knowledge or consent.
Who Qualifies for VAWA?
- Husband or Wife of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- Child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (depends on age and marital status of the child).
- Parent of a U.S. citizen (the citizen child must be 21 or older).
- Abused Spouses
- Married to a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident – LPR (Green Card Holder)
- Entered into the marriage in “GOOD FAITH” meaning that you did not get married solely for immigration purposes.
- Children of U.S. Citizen or LPR
- Children of a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident
- Under the age of 21 and unmarried
- Abused Parents
- Parent of a U. S. Citizen who is 21 years old or older.
All VAWA Petitioners must prove that he or she:
- Has or had a qualifying relationship to the abuser
- Subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by the abuser
- Resides or Resided with the abuser
- Have Good moral character
Note: You may still Self petition for VAWA even if:
- the abuse happened outside the U.S.
- the relationship has ended
- you are still living with the abuser
- you found out your spouse was married to more than one person at the same time
- your spouse died less than 2 years ago and you have not remarried
- you divorced your abusive spouse less than 2 years ago and you have not remarried
- your abuser lost his/her status within the last 2 years because of abuse and you have not remarried
Before the I-360 petition is approved, you may be able to get permission to work and may even qualify for certain government benefits like food stamps.
After the Petition is approved
- The Petitioning spouse can be placed in deferred action to prevent removal from the US
- Can work in the US
- Can Remarry (Remarriage after the petition is approved will not affect one’s VAWA benefits)
- Can adjust status to lawful permanent resident Preference category individuals (i.e. spouses and children of LPRs) can file for adjustment when their visa priority number becomes available.
- Immediate relatives (i.e. spouses, children, and parents of USCs) can file for adjustment at the same time they file their VAWA self-petition
- Can apply for other family members to immigrate to the U.S.