Certain immigrants may obtain lawful permanent resident status (a green card) without the participation or cooperation of their United States citizen or legal permanent resident abusive spouse, parent, or over 21-year-old U.S. citizen child by filing a VAWA self-petition. Prior to VAWA, victims of violence who were eligible for a green card would have to rely on an abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member to file the application with USCIS. VAWA created a route to lawful permanent residency for victims, which was safe and confidential, that they could pursue without their abusive family member’s knowledge or cooperation. Attaining lawful permanent residency through a VAWA self-petition is a two-step process. First, an eligible applicant must file a VAWA self-petition, which must be approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Second, the applicant must apply for lawful permanent residence either through the “adjustment of status” process in the United States or at a consulate abroad.
For approval of a VAWA petition, the self-petitioning spouse or child must establish:
The relationship to the abuser;
The abusive spouse or parent is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident;
The self-petitioner resided with the abuser at some time. There is no requirement, however, that the self-petitioner be separated from the abuser at the time of filing;
The self-petitioner experienced “battery” or “extreme cruelty” while married;
The self-petitioner is a person of good moral character; and
The marriage was in good faith.
You may be eligible for VAWA even if you divorced the abusive US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. VAWA allows spouses who were abused during their marriages and later divorced to be eligible for the benefit if the marriage was legally terminated during the two-year period immediately preceding the filing of the self-petition for a reason connected to the battering or extreme mental cruelty.
If you are married or divorced and think you may be eligible for VAWA benefits do not hesitate to contact the team at Law Group International for a consultation.