In family-based immigration cases, the green card process typically begins with a family member petitioning for another family member. Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), certain people who have been abused by a family member can ‘self-petition,’ and form the basis for their own lawful permanent residency application.
Who Can Self-Petition Under VAWA?
- Spouses of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents, who have been abused by their spouse. The petition also covers their children who are under the age of 21.
- Children of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents who have been abused by their parents. The child can self-petition, or the other parent can file a petition on their behalf.
- Parents of United States citizens, if the parent has been abused by the child, and the child is over 21 years of age at the time of filing.
Despite its name, VAWA protects both male and female applicants.
What Must I Prove for VAWA
Spouses must prove the following:
- They live or lived with the USC/LPR abusive spouse;
- They were abused or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage;
- The marriage was entered into in good faith; and
- They have good moral character.
Children must prove the following:
- They live or lived with the USC/LPR abusive parent; and
- They were abused or subjected to extreme cruelty.
Parents must prove the following:
- That the child-abuser is a United States citizen;
- That the child-abuser is over twenty-one years old;
- They live or lived with the child-abuser;
- They were abused or subjected to extreme cruelty; and
- They have good moral character.
VAWA Application Process
The VAWA application process is the same as a typical permanent residency process, except the applicant self-petitions using Form I-360 (instead of a relative filing an I-130).
Self-Petition: You will demonstrate to USCIS that you have been the victim of abuse, by your relative. USCIS will evaluate your claim, and if your application is approved, you can potentially apply for your lawful permanent residency.
Lawful Permanent Residency: If your I-1360, self-petition is approved, you can potentially apply for your lawful permanent residency. Unlike the U-visa, to apply for your green card, you must otherwise be admissible to the United States. VAWA automatically waives a few grounds of inadmissibility including, public charge, entry without inspection, being unlawfully present, and working without authorization. Additionally, there are special waiver rules for other grounds of admissibility.
Abusive Family Member
To qualify for VAWA, you do not have to be married to your abusive spouse; additionally, you may qualify if your spouse has recently lost their residency status.
A battered spouse includes the following people:
- Bigamous Marriage: In good faith, you believed that you were married to your USC or LPR spouse, but s/he was in fact married to someone else;
- Death of Abusive Spouse: You can file for VAWA so long as you file within two years of the death of your abusive spouse.
- Abusive Spouse lost his Residency: You can file for VAWA so long as you fie within two years of when your spouse lost his/her residency, so long as the loss of the residency was related to domestic violence;
- Divorce: You can file for VAWA so long as you file within two years of when your divorce is finalized, so long as there is a connection between the divorce and the abuse. If you are divorced, you cannot re-marry until your I-360 is approved, or your petition will be invalidated.
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 U-visa and VAWA applications. Please feel free to call us at (510) 491-0291 to see how we can help!