The Violence against Women Act provides a way for people who have been abused by their lawfully resident spouse, parent, or child, to apply for a green card on behalf of themselves.
Who Can Self-Petition Under VAWA?
- Spouses of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents who have been physically or emotionally abused;
- Children of abusive United States citizen or lawful permanent resident parents; and
- Parents of United States citizens (child must be over 21 years old).
See here for an overview of the basics of VAWA.
Becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident under VAWA & Grounds of Inadmissibility
If your I-360 application is approved, then you may, in some cases, apply for your lawful permanent residency. To apply for your green card, you must be admissible to the United States.
Some of the bars to adjustment are waived automatically for VAWA applicants, including entry without admission or parole, being out of status, public charge, and working without authorization.
The following are not waived automatically; however, generous waivers are available.
- 3 & 10-Year Bars: may be waived if the Applicant can show a connection between the domestic violence and being unlawfully present in the United States OR the Applicant arrived before April 1, 1997.
- Permanent Bar & Reentry After Removal: may be waived if the Applicant can show a connection between the abuse and the removal or departure and re-entry or attempted re-entry.
- Fraud or Misrepresentation (but not false claim to citizenship): may be waived if the Applicant can demonstrate extreme hardship to her(him)self, or their United States citizen or lawful permanent resident parent or child.
- Criminal Grounds of Inadmissibility: may waive a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude, convictions of two or more offenses with a total aggregate sentence of 5 years or more, prostitution, and for a single violation of a controlled substance law as it relates to 30 grams or less of marijuana.
- Communicable Disease: may be waived for a VAWA self-petitioner.
Good Moral Character
VAWA applicants must also show that they have Good Moral Character (GMC). Under the law, certain behaviors or convictions will preclude an immigration officer from finding that an applicant has GMC. Many of the automatic bars to GMC (found in INA §101(f)) are also grounds of inadmissibility. However, an act or conviction may be excused if it is ‘waivable,’ and there is a connection to the abuse. Your attorney will cross-check the requirements for GMC, and grounds of inadmissibility with available waivers.
If you are inadmissible and do not qualify for a waiver, or you cannot establish that you have GMC, you may still be able to file form I-360, Self-Petition, but not submit your application for a green card. If you believe that any grounds of inadmissibility apply to you, you should speak with an experienced immigration attorney before filing any VAWA applications.
If you have been the victim of domestic violence or abuse at the hands of a family member, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, have experience with VAWA applications and complex waivers of inadmissibility. Please feel free to call us at (510) 491-0291 to see how we can help!