Immigration Relief For Abused Spouses, Children And Parents, Including Relief Under The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Immigration relief is available to the family members of abusive U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The immigration laws protect certain husbands, wives, children, and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) by affording them the opportunity to apply for family-based petitions without their abusers’ knowledge. This sort of relief allows victims both safety and independence from their abusers. This type of relief is available equally to men and women, regardless of sexual orientation.
What is a VAWA Self-Petition?
Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994. Under the VAWA, victims of domestic abuse can apply for lawful immigration status without the consent or knowledge of their abusers.
In regular immigration cases, family members must petition for a foreign national who wants to apply for lawful immigration status. Family members who sponsor immigrants control the process until the immigrant receives lawful permanent residence. Under the VAWA, this is not necessary, making it easier for victims of abuse to obtain immigration status.
While the Act does include the word “women” in it, anyone can self-petition if they are being abused. The Act applies to abused men and children, as well, regardless of their gender. In fact, many men successfully obtain VAWA benefits after being abused by their U.S.-citizen or permanent resident spouses or ex-spouses.
When self-petitioning under VAWA, you must meet many eligibility requirements. Due to the fact that VAWA only applies to family members, you must prove that you have a familial relationship with your abuser. You must show that you are a spouse, child, or parent of the abuser or that your marriage ended within the past two years.
You must show that you have suffered extreme cruelty or battery and that you are of good moral character. Abuse can take many forms, and our attorneys can help present your case in the strongest manner possible.
The good moral character requirement usually requires you to show that your criminal history is not serious.
Other Family Members Under VAWA
If you are suffering from abuse at the hands of a family member, there is always the possibility that another loved one is also being abused. There are requirements under VAWA that stipulate whether you can include another family member in your petition, even if they have not been abused. They are as follows:
- If your spouse is being abusive, you may be able to include any children who are unmarried and under the age of 21 years old at the time you file.
- If your parent is abusing you, you may also be able to include any children who are unmarried and under the age of 21 years old at the time you file.
- If you are being abused by your adult child, you cannot include any other family members in your petition.
Obtaining a Green Card Through VAWA Self-Petitioning
You may be able to apply for a green card either at the same time or after you apply for VAWA.. There are many factors that will determine when you can apply for a green card after filing your VAWA petition. The abused spouses of U.S. citizens can apply for permanent residence at the same time as they apply for VAWA. Our attorneys can help assess when you can apply for permanent residence based on your VAWA application.
After obtaining your green card, you will have many of the same rights as a United States citizen. After you have had a green card for a certain number of years, you can also apply for U.S. citizenship which provides even more rights, including the right to vote in elections.
Obtaining an Employment Authorization Document
Self-petitioning through VAWA does not automatically give you the right to work in the United States. However, if your self-petition is approved, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may give you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which gives you the legal right to work.
Key Points about VAWA Benefits
- Self-Petitioning: Under VAWA, eligible noncitizens can file a self-petition (Form I-360) to seek legal status without the help of their abuser.
- Credible Evidence: Applicants need to provide evidence that they have been subjected to abuse, which can include police reports, medical records, affidavits, and other supporting documentation. In some cases, the applicant’s own statements can be enough to demonstrate the abuse. An attorney can help explain the types of evidence that may be needed.
- Confidentiality Protections: VAWA safeguards the privacy of survivors throughout the immigration process, allowing them to seek relief without fear of the abuser’s interference.
- Access to Benefits: Successful applicants may be eligible for work authorization and certain public benefits.
Our Immigration Lawyers in Tennessee Can Help With Your Self-Petition
The time for filing these types of petitions is usually limited, so be sure to call Ozment Law, PLC as soon as you are ready to gain your independence and seek legal status in this country. Relief under the Violence Against Women Act is also available to victims who have been put into immigration court or deportation proceedings.
Abused spouses, parents, and children should act quickly because there is a limited amount of time to take advantage of immigration benefits.