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Help! My Petitioner is Abusing Me Physically or Psychologically!

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides immigration relief to victims of domestic violence.  The U.S. government recognized that immigrant victims of domestic violence may remain in an abusive relationship because immigration status is often tied to their abuser.VAWA provides relief that removes control from the abuser and allows the victim to submit his or her own application that is filed without the abuser’s knowledge or consent.

Those Eligible to File

  • Spouse: You may file for yourself if you are, or were, the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You may also include on your petition your unmarried children who are under 21 if they have not filed for themselves.
  • Parent: You may file for yourself if you are the parent of a child who has been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. You may include on your petition your children, including those who have not been abused, if they have not filed for themselves. You may also file if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen, and you have been abused by your U.S. citizen son or daughter.
  • Child: You may file for yourself if you are an abused child under 21, unmarried and have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent. Your children may also be included on your petition. You may file for yourself as a child after age 21 but before age 25 if you can demonstrate that the abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing.
  • VAWA immigration relief applies equally to women and men.

Basic VAWA Eligibility Requirements

Special Requirements for abused spouses:

  • Is or was married to USC or LPR
  • Marriage was in good faith

Special Requirements for abused children:

  • Is child of USC or LPR

Special Requirements for abused parents:

  • Is parent of USC

Requirements for all victims:

  • Has or had a qualifying relationship to the abuser
  • Subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by the abuser
  • Resides or Resided with the abuser
  • Good moral character

Benefits

  • Self-petitioning —do not need a sponsor
  • Changes to the abuser’s immigration status after filing a self-petition will not adversely affect victim’s self-petition

After the approval:

  • Can be placed in deferred action to prevent removal from the US
  • Can work in the US
  • Remarriage of the VAWA self-petitioner after approval of the self-petition is not a ground for revocation of the approved self-petition
  • Can adjust status to lawful permanent resident
    • Immediate relatives (i.e. spouses, children, and parents of USCs) can file for adjustment at the same time they file their VAWA self-petition
    • Preference category individuals (i.e. spouses and children of LPRs) can file for adjustment when their visa priority number becomes available.

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