In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), creating special routes to immigration status for certain battered foreigners. Among the basic requirements for eligibility, a battered foreigner must be the spouse or child of an abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Through a self-petitioning process, the battered spouse/child may apply for immigration status without the knowledge or involvement of the abuser. Derivative status is available to certain children and parents of the principal immigrant.
If eligible, Form I-360 Self-Petition (VAWA petition) is filed with supporting documentation. There is extensive evidence that must be gathered including evidence of battery/abuse/extreme cruelty and proof of the qualifying relationship to the abuser. Immigrants who can establish the basic requirements outlined below will be given a “prima facie” determination and then be eligible for certain public benefits. If the VAWA petition is approved, the immigrant is granted deferred action status in most cases. Deferred action means that removal, or deportation, proceedings will not be initiated. Applicants are also eligible for work authorization upon approval of their VAWA petition.
Once the VAWA petition has been approved, immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system. Self-petitioners who are immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens (spouses, parents, unmarried children under the age of 21) are eligible to adjust status to a lawful permanent resident status when their VAWA petition is approved. Spouses and children of lawful permanent residents must wait for an immigrant visa to become available for their category. These petitioners will be able to obtain work authorization until they are eligible to apply for permanent residency.
The process to apply for lawful permanent residence includes a criminal check by fingerprinting and completion of a medical exam. Applicants might be barred from permanent residency if they have a record of involvement with drugs, prostitution, or other crimes, if they committed visa fraud, were previously deported, or have certain other “bad marks” against them. Waivers are sometimes available for criminal or immigration issues but intending immigrants with these complications are advised to have their cases reviewed by an immigration attorney. Battered spouses or children of U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are the subjects of deportation proceedings may also be eligible for this form of relief through VAWA cancellation of removal.
Eligibility to File
Spouse: You may file for yourself if you are, or were, the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You may also file as an abused spouse if your child has been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. You may also include on your petition your unmarried children who are under 21 if they have not filed for themselves.
Parent: You may file if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen, and you have been abused by your U.S. citizen son or daughter.
Child: You may file for yourself if you are an abused child under 21, are unmarried, and have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent. Your children may also be included on your petition. You may also file for yourself as a child after age 21 but before age 25 if you can demonstrate that the abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing.
Eligibility Requirements for a Spouse
- You have a qualifying spousal relationship, meaning that you are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser, or
- your marriage to the abuser was terminated by death or a divorce (related to the abuse) within the 2 years prior to filing your petition,
- your spouse lost or renounced citizenship or permanent resident status within the 2 years prior to filing your petition due to an incident of domestic violence, or
- you believed that you were legally married to your abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse but the marriage was not legitimate solely because of the bigamy of your abusive spouse.
- You or your child has suffered battery/extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse:
- You entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for immigration benefits.
- You have resided with your spouse.
- You are a person of good moral character.
Eligibility Requirements for a Child
- You have a qualifying parent/child relationship, meaning
- You are the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser, or
- you are the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser who lost citizenship or lawful permanent resident status due to an incident of domestic violence.
- You have suffered battery/extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent.
- You have resided with your abusive parent.
- You are a person of good moral character; a child less than 14 years of age is presumed to be a person of good moral character.
Eligibility Requirements for a Parent
- You have a qualifying parent/son or daughter relationship, meaning
- You are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who is at least 21 years of age when the self-petition is filed,
- you are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who lost or renounced citizenship status related to an incident of domestic violence, or
- you are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who was at least 21 years of age and who died within 2 years prior to filing the self-petition.
- You have suffered battery or extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen son or daughter.
- You have resided with the abusive son or daughter.
- You are a person of good moral character.
Proving a VAWA Case: Evidence to Submit
Gathering convincing evidence to support your VAWA request is crucial!
When you file an application under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), you must not only fill out and submit USCIS Form I-360, but also submit evidence showing that you meet the VAWA eligibility requirements and qualify for relief.
Evidence to Include With Form I-360
In addition to Form I-360, you will need to include evidence that you meet all the requirements of VAWA. At the very least, this evidence should include the following:
- declaration describing your relationship with the abuser and the abuse you suffered
- police clearance records and/or other evidence to show you are a person of "good moral character
- a copy of your passport or birth certificate
- proof that the abuser is a U.S. citizen or green card holder
- proof that you are the abuser’s spouse, child, or parent
- proof that you lived with the abuser
- proof that you suffered abuse, and
- proof that you currently live in the United States.
Filing for VAWA can be complicated and confusing, please seek help and call us at: 617-536-0584 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org