Violence Against Women Act petitions are a unique type of immigration case because you are allowed to file for immigration papers without a family member sponsor. The process for
self-petitioning begins by filing form I-360.
VAWA is not limited to women but protects the following classes of people who have suffered battery or extreme cruelty:
Someone (male or female) abused by spouse (husband or wife).
- Child abused by parent.
- Parent abused by child.
Under VAWA, you do not have to have been physically abused and you can win if you have been subject to extreme cruelty like social isolation, economic control, and emotional abuse.
The law requires that the VAWA self-petitioner show that he or she “has been battered or has been the subject of extreme cruelty” by the green card holder or U.S. citizen.
Punching, kicking, slapping, or otherwise hurting you.
- Sexually abusing or raping you.
Limiting or monitoring your use of the telephone or internet.
- Making you dependent on the abuser for transportation. Preventing you from getting a driver's license or letting you out of the house.
- Preventing you from working, going to school, or learning English.
- Prohibiting you from visiting or speaking with family.
Controlling all your money, credit cards, savings, and bank accounts.
- Taking your paycheck and not giving you any money to spend without the abuser’s permission.
Calling you names and making fun of you in front of other people.
- Making you feel guilty. For example, yelling at you about the house being messy or blaming you when the children are misbehaving.
- Questioning the kids about what you did all day and making them “keep an eye on you.”
- Threatening to take your kids away or have you deported.
This is not a complete list, but just some common examples of abuse and extreme cruelty. The USCIS will consider the totality of the circumstances when deciding whether you have been abused or
subjected to extreme cruelty.
Abuser’s Immigrant Status:
The abuser is (or was) a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card Holder).
Under VAWA, you can still file a petition even if the abuse occurred before the abuser became a citizen or a green card holder.
- The abuser can lose his or her green card and be deported from the United States. If that happens, you have 2 years from the date the abuser lost status to file a VAWA petition.
Divorce, Death, and Remarriage
Effect of Divorce on VAWA Petition: If the marriage ends because of abuse, you can still file a VAWA petition within two years from the date the marriage was
officially terminated. If your marriage ends after a petition is filed, there is no effect on the VAWA petition.
Effect of Death on VAWA Petition: Similarly, if the abuser dies, you can still file a VAWA petition within two years of the death.
Effect of Remarriage on VAWA Petition: If you remarry before your VAWA petition is approved by the U.S., then the petition will be denied. Therefore, it is important that you do not
get married again if you are considering filing a VAWA petition and wait until after the U.S. approves the petition.
Good Faith Marriage: You must have entered the marriage in “good faith.” This basically means that you did not enter into the marriage just so you could obtain a green card. If the
marriage is a fraud, then you will not qualify for a green card through VAWA.
Residency Requirement: In most cases, you must reside in the U.S. to file a VAWA petition. You can file a petition outside of the U.S. if your abuser is an employee of the U.S.
government or a member of the armed services, or the abuse occurred in the United States.
Lived with Abuser: You must have lived with the abuser at some point. There is no specific length of time that you must have lived with the abuser. More importantly, you do not need to
be currently living with the abuser when you file a VAWA petition.
Good Moral Character: You must possess good moral character. Good moral character is not precisely defined but generally it means that you have not committed serious crimes
and that you fulfill your legal obligations, such as paying taxes.
VAWA self-petitioners may be eligible to adjust status to become a legal permanent resident (green card holder) and later may apply for citizenship. The main form for filing for adjustment of
status is Form I-485. If the abuser is a U.S. citizen, then you can apply as soon as USCIS approves your I-360 application. On the other hand, if your abuser was a legal permanent resident (green
card holder), then you must wait for a visa to become available before you can apply for a green card. You must wait until your “priority date” becomes current. Your priority date is the date
that your I-360 was approved or if the abuser previously filed an I-130 petition, then you can use that date as your priority date.
At the Law Office of Adrian Murati, our Rockford immigration law firm is dedicated to helping battered spouses, children, and parents, apply for VAWA immigration benefits. We understand that
dealing with abuse can be a sensitive issue and we want to ensure you that we take a compassionate approach so that our clients can feel comfortable during the process. We offer our clients help
throughout various stages of the VAWA application process including:
Applying for VAWA;
- Adjusting Status from VAWA to Legal Permanent Resident (green card holder).
If you or a loved one have been abused by a spouse, parent, or child, then you can call us at (815) 289-3209 to discuss your legal options and find out whether you qualify for VAWA.