Green Card Under VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is aimed at facilitating immigrants who are have suffered from domestic violence by allowing them to become Legal Permanent Residents (LPR). To so, they are required to submit a VAWA self-petition with USCIS. In some cases, they can also submit a green card application concurrent to filing a VAWA petition.
The Violence Against Women Act was introduced to remove the impediments faced by immigrants regarding immigration laws pertaining to reporting crimes, such as domestic violence, to law enforcement agencies. You are eligible to submit a petition under VAWA if you have faced battery or extreme cruelty at the hands of:
- A spouse or former spouse who is a US citizen or LPR;
- A parent who is a US citizen or LPR;
- A son or daughter who is a US citizen.
You can file a self-petition as per VAWA by filing a Form I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant hidden from the knowledge of the abusive family member. If your petition is approved, you become eligible to apply for a lawful permanent resident status. If you are a spouse of a US citizen or parent of a US citizen, you are considered an immediate relative and you are also eligible to apply for a green card concurrently. You will get a work authorization document and travel authorization document during the process.
Eligibility Requirements for a VAWA Green Card
To be eligible for a green card under VAWA, you have to meet certain requirements. VAWA is equally applicable to males and females, despite the gender-specific title. The following are the primary requirements that you will be expected to fulfil:
1.Your Abuser is a US Citizen or LPR
The person you name as the abuser must be a US citizen or a permanent resident. However, if the abuse happened before the abuser acquired a green card or citizenship, you can still file a petition as per and I-360 self-petition under VAWA.
2. You are a current or former spouse or child of a LPR or USC abuser, or the parent of a USC abuser
You can file a petition under VAWA if you are a battered spouse/ex-spouse or child of a LPR or US citizen, or a battered parent of a US citizen who is at least 21 years old at the time of filing the petition. If you are a battered spouse/ex-spouse, your unmarried children below the age of 21 can be included in your self-petition.
3.You Suffered Abuse during the relationship
According to the law, you are required to prove that you have been battered or experienced extreme cruelty at the hands of a family member who is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. “Battery” takes into account physical violence and sexual abuse, while “extreme cruelty” pertains to forcible detention, deportation threats, controlling behavior, emotional abuse, and similar behavior.
4.Your Marriage was in good faith
If you are filing as a battered spouse, it is important that your marriage with the LPR or USC abuser was genuine. If it is found to be fraudulent, you will not be eligible for a green card under VAWA. You can also file a VAWA self-petition even if you divorce your abusive spouse.
5.You are living in the US
In a majority of the cases, you are required to be residing in the US to file a self-petition under VAWA. However, you can file while staying in a different country in case the abuser is working for the US government of armed forces, or the abuse has taken place in US territory.
6.You stayed with the abuser for some time
When filing a petition under VAWA, it is required that you had lived with the abuser for a certain period of time. Even if you lived with them for a short time in the same residence, you may meet this criterion.
7.You have a good moral character
You need to have a good moral character for a minimum of three years in order to be eligible to file under VAWA. Having a criminal history, drug or excessive alcohol use, illegal gambling, etc., can prevent you from proving a good moral character.
Application Process for Green Card under VAWA
In order to apply for a Green Card under VAWA, you are required to:
- Submit Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant) accompanied by the evidence needed;
- If you are currently living in the United States and are the spouse or parent of a US citizen, file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) besides filing Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document);
- If you are filing a self-petition from abroad, you will need to appear for an interview at your local US Embassy or Consulate for your case to move forward and a green card to be issued;
- If you have a pending Form I-130 family petition and the petitioner is abusive, you can submit a VAWA self-petition to replace the Form I-130. The abuser will not be notified that you submitted this petition on your own behalf. You can also retain the priority date of the Form I-130 to the VAWA self-petition.
US immigration laws and regulations are complex. Cases often take a long time to be decided. Nevertheless, once your I-360 petition is approved and you get your green card, your green card will be valid for 10 years.
If you are eligible to apply for a green card concurrently to your VAWA self-petition, you can also apply for work authorization and travel authorization. You can continue to renew these authorizations while the petition is being decided. This is typically the case if the abuser is a US citizen. On the contrary, if the abuser is a lawful permanent resident, you will have to wait for the visa to available in order to apply for a green card.
To apply for a green card under VAWA, you should seek the advice of skilled and experienced immigration attorneys. Visit our website or contact Terra Immigration Partners by dialing +1 (407) 818-1244 today!