Deportation Defense: How the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Could Help

Deportation Defense: How the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Could Help

There is a special defense that may protect you from deportation if you are a victim of domestic violence. A VAWA cancellation of removal protects victims of abuse who have a US citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or parent. To apply for a VAWA cancellation of removal, you have to actually be in removal proceedings--in other words, actually have hearings in immigration court and facing the threat of deportation.

To be qualified for VAWA cancellation of removal, you must be one of the following:

  • The abused spouse of a US citizen or legal permanent resident

  • The abused son or daughter of a US citizen or legal permanent resident

  • The parent of an abused child of a US citizen or legal permanent resident

  • The abused intended spouse of a US citizen or legal permanent resident

The "intended spouse" is usually someone who thinks he or she is legally married to a US citizen or legal permanent resident, but the marriage is illegitimate because of the spouse's bigamy.

A VAWA applicant must:

  • Have been living in the US for the past three years

  • Not have been convicted of an aggravated felony

  • Not have been guilty of certain criminal or marriage fraud violations

  • Demonstrate that deportation would be an extreme hardship for the applicant, the applicant's child, or the applicant's parents

  • Have good moral character

"Extreme hardship" may be:

  • The abuser's ability to follow the victim if she returns to the home country

  • A need for medical supplies and expertise absent in the home country

  • A need for access to US courts for purposes of things like child support

A VAWA applicant does not need to be married to his or her abusive spouse until the Form I-360 is approved. It's acceptable to be unmarried if:

  • You believed you were legally married, but the marriage was invalid because of your spouse's bigamy

  • Your abusive spouse died not more than two years before you filed the petition

  • Your marriage to the abusive spouse ended not more than two years prior to filing the petition, and the marriage was terminated because of the abuse

These exceptions are subject to interpretation, and we highly recommend that you speak to a lawyer in order to learn more. Please contact us today to discuss your situation!
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