Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Status
Sometimes there are situations where a non-U.S. citizen spouse is married to a U.S. citizen (U.S.C.) spouse or a spouse who is a Lawful Permanent Resident (L.P.R.), but the U.S.C. or L.P.R. spouse is abusive towards the non-U.S.C. spouse. Also, a non-U.S. citizen child might be abused by their U.S. citizen or L.P.R. parent, and vice versa. In those situations, the abusive U.S.C or L.P.R. might refuse to sponsor the non-U.S.C. for permanent residency and ultimately citizenship. Fortunately, there is a remedy for the non-U.S.C. domestic violence victims – the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
On October 28, 2000, Former President Bill Clinton signed VAWA into law. In spite of its name, VAWA benefits abused males and females. (Unfortunately, VAWA does not protect victims of domestic violence in gay relationships because VAWA requires a legally valid marriage or a reasonable belief that a marriage existed. However, you may be eligible for a U visa.)
What must I prove to achieve VAWA status?
Anyone who petitions for VAWA status is referred to as a self-petitioner. VAWA serves victims of domestic violence. The most common victim of domestic violence is the abused spouse. The abused spouse, or self-petitioner, must offer proof of the abusive spouse’s L.P.R. or U.S.C. status either through a copy of their birth certificate or green card. The abusive spouse’s legal status in the U.S. proves that they could have petitioned for the non-U.S.C. spouse. The self-petitioner also must show there was a legally valid marriage between them and the abusive spouse. Also, the self-petitioner must have a current priority date in order to become a permanent resident. However, while they are waiting for their priority date, they will have legal status in the U.S., protection from deportation or removal, and, possibly, a work permit. The self-petitioner must also show good moral character.
If the self-petitioner is a battered child of a U.S.C. or L.P.R. parent or the parent of a U.S.C. or L.P.R. child, the self-petitioner must show that they resided with the U.S.C. or L.P.R., the U.S.C. or L.P.R. has lawful status in the U.S., the self-petitioner was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty, they have a current priority date, and they have good moral character. In most cases, the self-petitioning child must be unmarried and under 21 years of age.
Self-petitioning spouses may include their children in their VAWA petition as derivative beneficiaries.
If your VAWA petition is granted, then you will receive lawful permanent residency. You may remain on L.P.R. status for three years with the option of naturalization.
If you think you might be eligible for the benefits of VAWA, then please call our office.