Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), certain battered immigrants who are the spouses and children of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residency. In order to seek safety and independence from the abuser, individuals may apply for immigration relief without the abuser’s assistance or knowledge.
Who Is Eligible to Apply under VAWA?
To be eligible for adjustment of status under VAWA, a self-petitioner must demonstrate that he or she is a person of good moral character AND that he or she is eligible under one of the following categories:
* Spouse: You may self-petition if you are a battered spouse married to a U.S. citizen or LPR. Unmarried children under the age of 21, who have not filed their own self-petition, may be included on your petition as derivative beneficiaries.
* Parent: You may self-petition if you are the parent of a child who has been abused by his or her parent, who is a U.S. citizen or LPR. Your children (under 21 years of age and unmarried), including those who may not have been abused, may be included on your petition as derivative beneficiaries, if they have not filed their own self-petition.
* Child: You may self-petition if you are a battered child (under 21 years of age and unmarried) who has been abused by your U.S. citizen or LPR parent. Your children (under 21 years of age and unmarried), including those who may not have been abused, may be included on your petition as derivative beneficiaries.
What Are the Benefits under VAWA?
VAWA allows the victim of abuse to self-petition for lawful permanent residency (green card) and obtain a work permit without the involvement of the spouse. Through the protections of the Act, the victim can petition him or herself along with his or her minor children without needing the spouse’s consent or cooperation. A person who applies to adjust status under VAWA is eligible to naturalize in three, rather than five years.
Why is the Violence Against Women Act Necessary?
Generally, U.S. citizens and LPRs file an immigrant visa petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of a spouse or child, so that these family members may immigrate to or remain in the United States. Under U.S. immigration law, the U.S. citizen or permanent resident petitioner is in control of the filings and the process. Unfortunately, some U.S. citizens and LPRs misuse their control of this process to abuse their family members, or by threatening to report them to USCIS. As a result, most battered immigrants are afraid to report the abuse to the police or other authorities.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Victims of domestic violence should know that help is available to them through the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 [TDD]. The hotline provides information about shelters, mental health care, legal advice and other types of assistance, including information about self-petitioning for immigration status.
Contact Aretz & Chisholm Immigration today to schedule a consultation regarding your immigration case.