VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)
What is VAWA?
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a law that allows an abused spouse or child of a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident or an abused parent of a U.S. Citizen to self-petition for lawful status in the United States, receive employment authorization, and access public benefits. The VAWA provisions, which apply equally to women and men, are permanent and do not require congressional reauthorization. The applicant does not necessarily need to be married or live with the abuser to be protected by VAWA. In the case of death or divorce, the applicant should apply within 2 years of the death or divorce of the U.S. citizen or legal resident spouse. VAWA provides domestic violence survivors with the means that are essential to escaping violence and establishing safe, independent lives.
In many cases, VAWA applicants can also apply for a green card and obtain legal residency in the United States.
Applying for VAWA
The applicant must complete the Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, with supporting documentation. The application must be filed with the Vermont Service Center (VSC). If the applicant is living abroad at the time of filing the self-petition, they may file the VAWA application if: the abuser is an employee of the U.S. government, the abuser is a member of the uniformed services, or they were subjected to battery or extreme cruelty in the United States. If the applicant is a self-petitioning spouse or child and they meet all filing requirements, they will receive a notice (Prima Facie Determination Notice) valid for 150 days that they can present to government agencies that provide certain public benefits to certain victims of domestic violence. If the VAWA application is approved, the applicant is placed in deferred action, which allows them to remain in the United States.
- The applicant must be in a qualifying relationship with an abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident,
- The applicant must reside in the U.S. at the time the VAWA petition is filed and they must have resided with the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident at some point,
- The abusive person must be either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident,
- The applicant must have suffered abuse at the hands of the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident,
- The applicant must be a person of good moral character.
There are 3 qualifying relationships for VAWA:
1. Marriage to a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
One of the ways to qualify for VAWA is to be the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. To qualify under this relationship, the applicant must show that they entered into a bona-fide marriage with the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. To prove a bona-fide marriage, the applicant must show that at the time of the marriage, they intended to establish a life with their spouse. If the marriage was entered into solely for immigration benefits, this will not qualify as a good-faith marriage.
An individual may still qualify for VAWA even if they are not currently married to the abusive spouse. To qualify, the applicant should demonstrate that the marriage ended within the last 2 years prior to applying for VAWA. Also, the applicant should show that the termination of the marriage was related to the abuse of the spouse.
2. Abused Child of U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
An individual may also qualify for VAWA if they are the abused child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. To qualify, the applicant must show that they have a parent/child relationship with the abusive parent (in addition to meting many of the above mentioned requirements).
3. Parent of Abusive U.S. Citizen
An abused parent of a U.S. citizen might also qualify for VAWA as the. In addition to meeting the above-mentioned recruitments, to qualify under this category, the applicant must show that the abusive U.S. citizen is their child, and that the child is at least 21 years old.