Domestic Violence (VAWA)
Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed by Congress in 1994, the spouses and children of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPR) may self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residency. The immigration provisions of VAWA allow certain battered immigrants to file for immigration relief without the abuser’s assistance or knowledge, in order to seek safety and independence from the abuser.
To be eligible to file a self-petition (an application that an applicant files for self for immigration benefits) he/she must qualify under one of the following categories:
1. Spouse: An alien may self-petition if he/she is a battered spouse married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Unmarried children under the age of 21, who have not filed their own self-petition, may be included on the filing parents petition as derivative beneficiaries.
A self-petition may be filed even if the marriage was terminated by the abusive spouses death within the two years prior to filing. A self-petition may also be filed if the marriage to the abusive spouse was terminated, within the two years prior to filing, by divorce related to the abuse.
2. Parent: An alien may self-petition if he/she is the parent of a child who has been abused by the aliens U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. The aliens children (under 21 years of age and unmarried), including those who may not have been abused, may be included on the aliens petition as derivative beneficiaries, if they have not filed their own self-petition.
3. Child: An alien may self-petition if he/she is a battered child (under 21 years of age and unmarried) who has been abused by his/her U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent. The aliens children (under 21 years of age and unmarried), including those who may not have been abused, may be included on the aliens petition as derivative beneficiaries.
What are the Basic Requirements?
The self-petitioning spouse:
- Must be legally married to the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident batterer. A self-petition may be filed if the marriage was terminated by the abusive spouses death within the two years prior to filing. A self-petition may also be filed if the marriage to the abusive spouse was terminated, within the two years prior to filing, by divorce related to the abuse.
- Must have been battered in the United States unless the abusive spouse is an employee of the United States government or a member of the uniformed services of the United States.
- Must have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage, or must be the parent of a child who was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse during the marriage. Is required to be a person of good moral character.
- Must have entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.
- VAWA allows applicants to self-petition on Form I-360 for immigrant benefits even if the marriage ended in divorce, as long as VAWA self-petitioner demonstrates:
- Connection between the divorce and abuse.
- Files the petition within the statutory limit of two years from the termination of the alleged marriage (INA 204(a) (1) (A) (iii) (aa) (CC) (ccc)).
The self-petitioning child:
Must qualify as the child of the abuser as “child” is defined in the INA for immigration purposes. Any relevant credible evidence that can prove the relationship with the parent will be considered. VAWA was created to help victims of domestic abuse to remain in the Unites States and seek adjustment of status. The victims will benefit under VAWA if the abuser is or was a U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent.
Applicants can qualify under VAWA even if the abuser has lost his or her U.S. citizen or LPR status. In addition VAWA petitioners must prove that he/she is a person of good moral character, and show the U.S. citizen or LPR either physically or mentally abused the spouse during the marriage or the child during residence with the parent.
Preparation and Procedure for VAWA Green Card Petitions
To prove the abuse under VAWA self-petitioner must provide detailed and credible information related to the domestic abuse. VAWA petition is filed with the Vermont Service Center (VSC). Once the VSC approves the petition, the beneficiary will qualify for adjustment of status by filing Form I-485.
The USCIS office which processes Form I-485 based on the VAWA Petition will conduct an adjustment of status interview. The attorneys at Law Offices of Shilpa Malik PLLC will attend this interview with you to make sure that the local immigration officer does not question the facts, degree, or sufficiency of abuse as well as to anticipate any concerns that a USCIS Officer may have with respect to the I-485 petition.
What Constitutes Abuse Under VAWA
The VAWA law requires the self-petitioner to show that he or she, or his or her child, has been battered or has been the subject of extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent. It includes all conduct that falls within the definition of psychological and/or physical abuse. Generally psychological abuse is defined as verbal abuse, social isolation, possessiveness, control or diminution of quality of life.
Good Moral Character Requirement
To qualify for VAWA benefits, you must demonstrate that you are a person of good moral character. Evidence of good moral character includes:
- Police clearance certificate from the police department having jurisdiction over your place of residence.
- Affidavits from friends, family members, landlords, employers, and community organizations attesting to your good moral character.
- Proof of participation in volunteer, charitable and charitable organizations.
Why do I need an Attorney
The Attorneys at Law Offices of Shilpa Malik PLLC will work with you closely during the entire process and help you gather all the necessary evidence to make a strong case for VAWA relief. Please contact us at 877-811-3541 to determine whether you qualify for relief under VAWA.