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Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Immigration Attorneys

If you are an immigrant who has been a victim of domestic violence or abuse, then you may be able to qualify for a green card under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In certain situations, you can self-petition for a green card through VAWA and become a lawful permanent resident in the United States. Here at Consumer Law Group, our team of highly trained immigration attorneys can help you through the VAWA immigration process so that you can escape a dangerous situation and obtain immigration relief.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

The VAWA is a piece of legislation designed to protect women who have been subjected to domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse. While the legislation was first passed in 1994, it has since been reauthorized by Congress in 2000, 2005 and 2013. Most recently, in March 2021, the House of Representatives approved the reauthorization of VAWA.

VAWA provides law enforcement agencies and select other organizations – such as colleges and tribal councils – with more resources to investigate and prosecute instances of domestic violence and sexual assault. Additionally, VAWA can help immigrant victims of domestic violence obtain a green card in order to escape from abusive situations.

What is VAWA’s purpose when it comes to immigration? Noncitizens who work in service industries are often vulnerable to sexual harassment, assault and abuse. Additionally, in some cases, immigrant women are brought to the United States via human traffickers or abusive spouses. When a woman’s immigration status depends on an abuser, this can make it incredibly difficult to escape a dangerous situation without being deported.

However, if you file a self-petition under VAWA, you may be able to become a lawful permanent resident without your abuser’s assistance. By cutting the abuser out of the immigration process, immigrants who have experienced domestic violence can achieve more independence and freedom without being sabotaged or manipulated throughout the application process.

What Is A VAWA Self-Petition?

With a VAWA self-petition, immigrants who have suffered abuse can apply for an adjustment of status without the knowledge or sponsorship of their abuser. If you qualify, you can file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. Your immigration application will be reviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It will evaluate your application, determine whether you meet the necessary requirements and issue a decision on your immigration status.

Regardless of its ruling, USCIS will send you Form I-797, Notice of Action, within about 30 days of receiving your application. You can use the receipt number on this form to track any action that USCIS takes on your application.

As a VAWA self-petitioner, you will also have to attach supporting evidence to your application that both proves your relationship to your abuser and the abuse you suffered at their hands. Some examples of evidence include criminal records, medical records, psychological records, written affidavits, statements from friends and family members, and a personal statement that outlines the history of the abuse.

Who Is Eligible For VAWA?

In order to apply for immigration relief under VAWA, you must meet a number of eligibility requirements. According to USCIS, to be eligible for a green card through VAWA, you must have been the victim of “battery of extreme cruelty” that was committed by:

  • A U.S. citizen spouse or ex-spouse
  • A U.S. citizen parent
  • A U.S. citizen son or daughter
  • A lawful permanent resident spouse or ex-spouse
  • A lawful permanent resident parent

On top of this requirement, you must also meet the following criteria in order to be granted lawful permanent resident status under VAWA:

  • You must properly fill out and file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
  • You must be physically present in the United States when you file Form I-485.
  • You must be eligible to receive an immigrant visa.
  • You must be admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence, be eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or qualify for other forms of relief.
  • You must not face any bars to adjustment of status.
  • You must hold up to the discretion of USCIS (i.e., demonstrate family or community ties, employment, specialized skills, compliance with laws, good moral character, etc.)

Another important thing to note is that, while the name of the legislation suggests that the law only applies to women, this is not true; male victims of domestic violence may also self-petition under VAWA.

What Is VAWA Cancellation Of Removal?

If you have been placed in removal proceedings, VAWA cancellation of removal can potentially keep you in the United States. It is a form of immigration relief available to victims of abuse who want to stay in the country. If your application for cancellation of removal is granted, you and, possibly, your child can receive a green card and achieve lawful permanent resident status.

In order to qualify for VAWA cancellation of removal, you must demonstrate that:

  • You have been the victim of battery or extreme abuse by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  • You have been physically present in the U.S. for at least three years before removal proceedings were initiated.
  • You have maintained good moral character.
  • Your removal would result in extreme hardship for you or your family.
  • You are not subject to any existing grounds of inadmissibility.

If you are facing removal proceedings, contact a deportation defense lawyer. A qualified lawyer can help you sort through different forms of relief and file a cancellation of removal under VAWA, if applicable.

How Long Does the Process Take?

USCIS and immigration courts often take a relatively long time to issue decisions to applicants. Immigration judges are constantly up against a long list of applications, and each section of an application must be carefully reviewed and considered. Thus, the process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Simple misunderstandings and mistakes in paperwork can potentially delay a decision on your application. By hiring an immigration law attorney, you can ensure that your VAWA self-petition gets filled out correctly the first time. This, in turn, can minimize problems and help the process move along more quickly.

Costs And Forms Needed To Apply For VAWA

There is no direct fee associated with filing a petition under VAWA. However, VAWA self-petitioners will need to include a number of forms and documents with their application, including:

  • Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
  • Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
  • Copy of Form I-797, Approval Notice or Receipt
  • Two passport-eligible photographs
  • Copy of your government-issued photo ID
  • Copy of your birth certificate
  • Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record

Under certain conditions, you may also have to submit:

  • Copy of your passport page with a nonimmigrant visa
  • Copy of your passport page with admission or parole stamp
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
  • Police or court records of criminal activities
  • Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility
  • Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal
  • Documentation of J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant status

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into filing a self-petition under VAWA. The process can be long, complex, and overwhelming for many people. Fortunately, our team at Consumer Law Group is here to help. Just by taking a look at our testimonials, you will see how many people we have helped obtain immigration relief. Contact us today to see how we can assist you.

Reach Out To Us For VAWA Support And Guidance

Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced lawyers. Call us at 312-766-7777 or reach out to us online.