Often, people gain permanent residency (green card) through a family-based petition or through an employer. Lawful permanent residence opens the door to a variety of benefits and protections. Frequently, permanent residence is obtained through an immigrant’s spouse, parent or child, but occasionally the U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse, parent or child is abusive to the person who is undocumented and may be using immigration status as a means of controlling that family member. If this is your current situation, there may be other options for you. You may be eligible to apply for your green card through VAWA (Violence Against Women Act).
Requirements to Qualify to Apply for a Green Card Through VAWA
Who can file for VAWA?
- Spouse: if you are married to a US Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder) and that spouse is abusing you, you might be eligible for VAWA.
- Parent: if you are the parent of an adult U.S. Citizen and that son or daughter is abusing you, you might be eligible for VAWA.
- Child: if you are the child of a U.S. Citizen and your mother or father is abusing you, you might be eligible for VAWA.
Applying as the spouse (husband or wife) of an abusive U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder):
- Must have a marital relationship, i.e. you must be legally married to your spouse, or
- Must have been previously married to your spouse and the marriage was terminated through divorce or death within the last 2 years.
- There are occasions where your spouse may no longer be a Lawful Permanent Resident or U.S. Citizen and he or she lost their status because of a Domestic Violence incident within the last two years and you might still qualify.
- There are occasions where you spouse may have been married to more than one person at the same time and you might still qualify.
- Your spouse is or was abusive to you, which could be physically, mentally, psychologically, sexually, economically, etc. (it is very important to talk to an immigration attorney who is experienced in filing VAWA self-petitions to make sure you qualify.)
- You have resided with your spouse.
- You are a person of good moral character.
- As a small note, it is not necessary to live in the United States in order to qualify for VAWA.
The requirements for a parent or child of a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident are essentially the same, but one must prove the family relationship and show that the parent or child was abusive to the person applying.
The process of applying for permanent residence through VAWA is confidential, not only in our law firm, but also with the USCIS. This means that the USCIS cannot tell your abuser that you are applying for VAWA. The USCIS is extremely careful to keep the process confidential.
If you are in an abusive situation, you might qualify to apply for your green card through VAWA. If you don’t qualify for VAWA because you aren’t actually married or some other person in your life is abusing you, you might qualify for other immigration protections such as a U visa. If you are in this situation, please don’t hesitate to consult with an immigration attorney. A reputable immigration attorney and one that has experience in VAWA or U visas, will be able to tell you whether you qualify and will be able to represent you in the process.
If you are in a domestic violence situation, we can first help you connect with the right people who can support you in whatever situation you may find yourself. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911. Here in the United States, the police help people who are being abused.
Once you are ready, we can help you through the immigration process. We have filed countless VAWA petitions and we can represent you through the entire process with kindness and compassion. As an attorney, one of my favorite things about my job is seeing people move forward with their lives, gain independence from their abusers, gain confidence in themselves and be able to raise their children in safety and peace. I absolutely love seeing people come into my office over time and seeing the changes they are able to make in their lives. Immigration status is one big piece of the puzzle to make these changes. We can support you in achieving this for yourself; the first step is picking up the phone. Please call 763-951-2235.