In 1994, Congress passed the “Under the Violence Against Women Act” (VAWA) which allows abused immigrants the chance to self-petition in order to receive lawful permanent residency without the abuser’s knowledge. The self-petitioner may be the spouse or child of the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR). The purpose of the VAWA is to provide immigration relief, safety, and independence for the abused immigrant.
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:
- The petitioner is required to be legally married to the abuser and the abuser is a U.S. citizen or LPR. The petition may still be filed even if the marriage ended due to death of the abusive spouse or divorce. However, the death or divorce must have occurred within two years of the filing period.
- The spouse is required to have been battered in the U.S. The only exception is if the abusive spouse is employed with the U.S. government or is a representative of the U.S. uniformed services.
- The self-petitioning spouse must be a person of good merit and moral character. To qualify under the VAWA, the spouse must have experienced extreme cruelty while in the marriage. The spouse’s child may have also been abused or experienced extreme cruelty by the abusive U.S. citizen/LPR during the time of marriage.
- The self-petitioner’s marriage is required to be bonafid. The spouse must not have entered into the marriage under false pretenses or for the opportunity of gaining legal status.
- If the spouse meets all VAWA requirements, the abused spouse may self-petition using the I-360 form. The abused spouse may still file under the I-360 if the marriage resulted in divorce. If the marriage ended in divorce the self-petitioning spouse must provide evidence of a connection between the abuse and divorce and the divorce must have occurred within two years of the petition filing.
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
VisaNation Law Group 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.