Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA Petitions)
Part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Violence Against Women’s Act created a means for victims of domestic battery to gain lawful permanent status. Amongst other things, the Violence Against Women allows battered spouses, parents, and children to file a VAWA petition, which if granted would grant the petitioner a U-Visa and a path towards U.S. citizenship. The provisions of VAWA apply equally to male victims and same-sex victims. According to the White House, between 1993 and 2010, the rate of domestic violence declined by 67% and between 1993 and 2007, the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35% while the rate of intimate partner homicides of males decreased 46%.
VAWA Petitions Allow Self-Petitions
Most times under United States immigration law, a person seeking to come to the United States requires someone to sponsor the person seeking entry in the country. For example, family-based immigration petition requires either a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident to sponsor the family-member overseas. Also, employment-based immigration requires an employer based in the U.S. to sponsor the worker abroad. Unlike these visas, VAWA petitions do not require a sponsor. VAWA petitions are self-sponsor. What that means is that a victim of domestic battery does not need anyone to sponsor him or her to gain permanent lawful status. In fact, the whole purpose of a VAWA petition is to allow a victim of domestic abuse to file a VAWA petition without the abuser even knowing that a VAWA petition has been filed.
Who is Eligible to File a VAWA Petition?
Battered spouses, parents, and children are all eligible to file a VAWA petition. However, the rules vary depending upon the classification of victim and whether the abuser was a U.S. citizen.
VAWA Petitions for Abused Spouses
To qualify for a U-Visa under VAWA an abused or battered spouse must establish that he or she is of good moral character, that you were or are married to U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and that you were battered or suffered extreme cruelty. Filing a divorce or being divorced from the abuser does not affect the ability of the battered spouse from seeking a VAWA petition. VAWA allows a battered spouse to file a VAWA petition if the abusive marriage was ended by death or divorce within 2 years of filing the VAWA petition. A spouse can obtain status even if he or she has not personally suffered abused if they can establish that a U.S. citizen or permanent resident is abusing his or her child.
VAWA Petitions for Abused Children
Abused and battered children are also eligible for a U-Visa under the provisions of VAWA. To qualify under VAWA a child must establish that he or she is the child of a U.S. citizen or green card holder and that the child suffered battery or extreme cruelty. The child must also establish that he or she lived with the abusive parent and that the child is of good moral character. All children under 14 years of age are presumed to be of good moral character.
VAWA Petitions for Abused Parents
Unlike abused spouses and children, battered parents qualify for VAWA only if they can establish that a son or daughter that is a U.S. citizen abused them. Parents that were abused or battered by a son or daughter that is a permanent resident are not eligible to file a VAWA petition. In addition, a parent must establish that his or her abusive child is 21 years of age or older, that the parent lived with the abusive child, and that the parent suffered battery or extreme cruelty at the hands of the U.S. Only abused parents that are of good moral character are eligible to file a VAWA petition.
VAWA Petitions are Available for Undocumented Persons
What is the Process to File for a VAWA Petition?
All VAWA petitions begin by filing Form I-360 and providing all supporting documentation and evidence. Failure to comply with the instructions or failing to provide the required evidence will result in the USCIS denying the VAWA petition. Within 150 days of filing the VAWA petition, the USCIS will issue a Prima Facie Determination Notice that can be used to obtain public benefits. Once the VAWA petition is approved the petitioner along with the person’s children are eligible for work authorization and if necessary the petitioner is eligible for deferred action. Most importantly, once the VAWA petition is approved the abused person is eligible to apply for a green card, which would result in permanent resident status and a path towards citizenship.
What to do if your VAWA Petition is denied?
Any VAWA petition that USICS denies is appealable. To appeal a VAWA petition denial requires an appeal to be filed within 33 days of the denial. Late appeals are not allowed.
We understand the difficulties of being a battered or abused spouse. We understand that he difficulties that you are facing to come forward but there is hope. We can help not only legally but we can refer you to private and governmental agencies that are available to help you leave the abusive situation now. We will answer your questions, prepare the VAWA potion and we will help gather the required evidence that USCIS requires. Your path to a new life and a green card is a call away.