What is VAWA? How can I qualify?
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a law that protects the rights of men, women, and children who are domestic violence survivors. It is a generous immigration benefit that allows for certain immigrants to obtain protection from deportation, a work permit, and in the majority of cases, a green card.
A VAWA works in a similar way as a family-based petition and allows the immigrant to apply for a green card. In many cases, the person can apply for both the green card and the VAWA at the same time. VAWA applicants are also eligible for a work permit based on the approval of their VAWA or their pending green card application.
How do I qualify?
In order to qualify, you must show the following:
- You suffered domestic violence or extreme cruelty at the hands of:
- a US citizen spouse (or your former spouse, if the marriage was terminated within the last two years),
- a US citizen parent (and you are under 21 years of age; or you are under 25 and can show that the abuse was the main reason for not filing your case before 21),
- a US citizen adult son or daughter (and your son/daughter is at least 21 years old),
- a green card holder spouse (or former spouse, if the marriage was terminated within the last two years), or
- a green card holder parent (and you are under 21 years of age; or you are under 25 and can show that the abuse was the main reason for not filing your case before 21)
What is abuse?
Abuse covers many actions, including emotional, psychological, financial, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as other similar behaviors. It also includes manipulation, intimidation, and threats of violence or deportation. For the purposes of VAWA, it does not require for the abuse to have been reported to the police or for the applicant to have a restraining order against the abuser.
What evidence do I need?
In addition to showing that the person has the qualifying relationship with the abuser and that the abuser is either a green card holder or U.S. citizen, as mentioned above, the majority of the evidence for these cases covers the abuse the person suffered.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is aware that many times survivors of domestic violence are afraid to report the abuse to the authorities or seek a restraining order. A lot of evidence available could be difficult to obtain because it is under the control of the abuser or his or her family members. This is the reason why the standard for these cases is “any credible evidence.” This can include statements from the applicant, any witnesses, a psychologist or therapist, and similar evidence.
Will the government inform my abuser?
No, the government is not authorized to inform an abuser about a VAWA petition filed by their victim. USCIS has very strong confidentiality rules for these cases. Even if the abuser thinks that their victim filed a VAWA petition and tries to contact the government to make sure the petition is denied, USCIS cannot deny the VAWA petition just based on this. USCIS personnel who violate these rules can be punished by a fine of up to $5,000 and face disciplinary action.
El Centro has assisted countless immigrant domestic violence survivors in these processes. If you feel that you or someone you know could qualify for this benefit, please call us at 908-753-8730 to schedule a consultation. We would be happy to answer your questions!
Please note that nothing on this blog should be considered legal advice. Each case is different and must be evaluated on its own merits.