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VAWA Immigration: Empowering Abuse Survivors with a Path to Legal Status

Get a deeper understanding of the VAWA immigration process with Do Law Office. Call us and learn about eligibility and application steps.

Navigating VAWA Immigration with Do Law Office

Among the many purposes of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is offering a path to legal status for immigrant victims of domestic abuse without the help of their abusers. Usually, an immigrant must rely on their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or child to sponsor their immigration petition to obtain legal status.

VAWA allows victims of abuse who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to apply for lawful permanent resident status on their own.

If you are an immigrant victim of abuse, Do Law Office can help you start your VAWA self-petition and accompany you every step of the way.

What Is VAWA Immigration?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a legislation that was first enacted in 1994. It was initially introduced by the then-Senator Joe Biden. Initially, the Act focused on domestic violence, but it has undergone reauthorization to cover various forms of abuse, such as sexual assault. Its provisions aim to empower survivors, irrespective of their immigration status.

One of the main ways VAWA achieves its goals of protecting survivors is by helping abused spouses, parents, or children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents obtain their own lawful permanent residence without the help or consent of their abusers.

Eligibility Criteria for VAWA Immigration Benefits

VAWA protects various categories of individuals, including:

  1. Spouses of abusive U.S. citizens or LPRs
  2. Children of abusive U.S. citizens or LPRs
  3. Parents of Abusive U.S. citizens or LPRs
  4. Parents of children who have been abused by U.S. citizen or permanent resident parents 

Additionally, immigrant children who have suffered abuse can self-petition under VAWA. To be eligible for VAWA benefits, an applicant should meet specific conditions. The USCIS requires applicants to meet the following eligibility requirements

  1. Abuse Eligibility: The applicant should be subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by an LPR or U.S. citizen spouse or family member.
  2. Relationship Eligibility: The applicant must be:
    1. Is or was married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who has subjected them to abuse
    2. An unmarried child under 21 years whom a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident parent has abused
    3. A parent who was subjected to abuse by a U.S. citizen or LPR child
    4. A parent of a child who has been abused by the other parent who is a U.S. citizen or LPR
  3. Filing Deadline: You need to file the VAWA self-petition within two years of the abusive act. However, late filings may be accepted in some cases with a credible explanation for the delay.
  4. Residence: The applicant is residing or has resided with the abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative.
  5. Good Moral Character: You need to show proof of good moral character.
  6. Admissibility: You should be admissible into the U.S. or eligible for a waiver.

If you are seeking VAWA immigration benefits, it is crucial to consult with an attorney. Our top-rated immigration attorney can advise you on the eligibility requirements, supporting documents, and the application process, as these can vary depending on your unique situation.

How to Apply for VAWA Self-Petition?

The VAWA self-petition application process is fairly straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:

  1. The VAWA self-petitioner must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, with the USCIS.
  2. Along with Form I-360, the applicant should provide supporting documentation that proves their relationship with the abuser and the abuse they suffered. They should also include other evidence like police reports, medical records, affidavits, etc.
  3. VAWA self-petitioners can apply for work authorization after the approval of their Form I-360. Applicants can request work authorization through Form I-360 (you must check the appropriate box) or through Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
  4. If the self-petitioner is in the U.S. and is eligible for a green card, they can file for adjustment of status. Applicants who are eligible for a green card but are outside the U.S. must go through consular processing. VAWA self-petitioners don’t need the consent or help of their abusive citizen or LPR relative to obtain immigration benefits.

The USCIS will assess the applicant’s character and background, given the sensitive nature of the VAWA cases. Consider seeking legal guidance from our experienced immigration lawyer from Do Law Office for a thorough case evaluation. Even if you are facing removal proceedings, our deportation defense attorney can work to identify possible solutions.

Required Documents

You will need enough evidence to support the claim of being a victim of abuse. The documents and evidence may vary based on individual circumstances. However, here is a list of documents usually submitted with a VAWA self-petition:

  • Personal statement (Declaration). A written statement from a petitioner describing the abuse they endured and its impact on their immigration status. 

  • Proof of relationship between the petitioner and abuser. This includes marriage certificates, birth certificates, joint financial records, or other relevant documents.

  • Proof of residence

  • Copies of police reports related to incidents of abuse

  • Medical records for any medical treatment sought after the abuse

  • These include hospital records, doctor’s notes, or injury photos.

  • Sworn statements or affidavits detailing the abuse and the relationship

  • Counseling records

  • Reports from Social Service Agencies

  • Employment records

  • Proof of citizenship or lawful permanent residency of the abuser

  • Proof of good moral character.

What to Expect After Filing A VAWA Petition 

After filing a VAWA petition, there are several potential outcomes to anticipate. Here is what you can expect:

  • A receipt notice confirming that the USCIS has received your application. They will then review your petition to check if you meet the eligibility criteria.
  • If the USCIS requires more information or documentation, they may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE).
  • The USCIS will, after that, decide on your VAWA petition.
  • If they approve it, you will be able to apply for immigration benefits, such as adjustment of status. If you have children who qualify as derivatives, they may also be eligible for benefits.
  • You may be eligible for public benefits.

There are several green card categories that you may be eligible for, depending on your relationship with the abuser and the status of the abuser. Your attorney will help you determine your green card eligibility and guide you through the application process.

Ensure a Safer Tomorrow With Do Law Office

Breaking free from abuse is a brave step, and with the proper legal support, you can build a safe future in the U.S. We are ready to offer unwavering support and legal guidance at Do Law Office. 

Remember that you don’t have to, and should not, go through the application process alone. Our attorneys can advise and represent you throughout the process, making sure you get the best possible results.

Do not let fear hold you back. Take the first step towards justice with Do Law Office. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.

Contact Us


4500 Satellite Blvd.
Suite 1160
Duluth, GA 30096


Tel: 678-224-8940
Fax: 678-224-8967

4500 Satellite Blvd Ste 1160

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