Immigration Center of
Ekaterina Mouratova, PA

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Approximately 19 million of the US population comprises of immigrant women and girls. Unfortunately, many of these immigrants, particularly those who are unauthorized, are prone to violence, exploitation, and abuse in their homes or places of work. For this reason, the federal government through the US Citizenship and Immigration Services provides guidance of status towards applications filed by Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners present in the US without proper documentation. The Act provides for abused immigrants to seek their lawful status in the US without depending on an abusive U.S Citizen or permanent resident spouse, parent, or child to sponsor their Adjustment of Status (Form I-485).


It is important to note that in spite of the program being named Violence Against Women Act and developed to protect the female members of the society, later it was recognized that not only women can be victims of domestic violence and presently men can apply under this program as well. 


Under VAWA, immigrant victims of violence, child abuse, or elder abuse can file for self-petition through immigration lawyers for lawful permanent residence status. Successful applicants of VAWA petitions must be battered spouses, abused children under the age of 21 and are unmarried, a parent of a child who has been abused by his or her lawful resident spouse, and a parent who has been abused by his or her US citizen who is at least 21 years of age at the time of petition.


A successful VAWA petition provides the applicant with permanent residency, work permit, and cancellation for removal. VAWA petitions are available upon proof of abuse, good faith marriage if the abuser is a spouse or stepparent, good character, LPR status of the spouse, relationship with the abuser and residence of the abuser. Often, people fallaciously believe that a successful VAWA petition must be supported by a police report. It is not true since the US immigration laws provide a flexible legal standard that allows petitioners to provide just reliable evidence. Nevertheless, it is important to provide proof of documentation such as medical records, police reports, domestic violence shelter records, and restraining orders.


Victims of abuse currently in removal (deportation proceedings) also qualify for cancellation of removal under VAWA should they face violence during the proceedings. Your immigration attorney can help you in filing for this relief. Successful cancellation of removal of victims together with their children who have been paroled ultimately receive green cards of residence. VAWA petitions take less than 90 days for adjudication. The USCIS provides petitioners 33 days for appeal if their initial petitions are denied.


If you are a non-US citizen trapped in an abusive relationship with a resident citizen, you can seek help from an immigration lawyer who will help you in preparing well-documented VAWA self-petitions. They do this by evaluating the merits of your VAWA case, determining if filing for a self-petition is an appropriate form of relief, and ascertaining any apparent red flags.

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