The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is federal legislation that was passed in 1994 in an effort to combat violence against women and provide protection to women who have suffered violent abuses.  Under the VAWA, an abused immigrant spouse, child or parent may self-petition for lawful permanent status by filing Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant, with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, without having to rely on the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent to file a petition on the victim’s behalf.  This allows victims of abuse to seek safety and independence from their abuser in the United States.  VAWA applicants may also apply for work and travel permits while their green card application is pending.  Since its passage, VAWA has expanded to apply equally to all genders and is not specific to women.

WHO CAN APPLY

  • Abused spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident’s whose children have been abused by their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse
  • Abused children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents
  • Abused parents of U.S. citizens who qualify as immediate relatives

REQUIREMENTS OF SELF-PETITIONING SPOUSE

  • Good moral character
  • Marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Marriage was entered into in good-faith
  • During marriage, immigrant spouse or child was battered or subject to extreme cruelty by her or his U.S citizen spouse or lawful permanent resident spouse
  • Current or past residence with U.S. citizen spouse or lawful permanent resident spouse

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Even if the marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident has ended within the past two-years, an abused spouse may nevertheless self-petition under the VAWA provided that it can be established that the marriage was bona-fide and there was a connection between the termination of the marriage and the abuse or extreme cruelty.

VAWA cases are very personal and each presents uniquely sensitive matters.  If you or someone you know does not feel comfortable immediately speaking with an immigration attorney, help is also available at the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).