The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, was passed in 1994 in order to protect immigrants from abusive spouses. Under this act, a woman (or man) who is being abused by a spouse who is a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen will be able to obtain his or her own permanent residence or green card independently of the spouse. This method of seeking permanent residency in the United States is referred to as “VAWA self-petitioning”. The abusive spouse does not play a part in the petitioning process, and does not even need to know that the abuse victim is filing for the petition in the first place.
A VAWA victim of domestic violence or a qualifying child or parent of such a victim may be eligible for permanent residence (a green card) under VAWA. Applicants do not have to be female. Applicants do not need the assistance of their abuser to submit an application. An interested individual should consult a NYC immigration attorney to determine his or her eligibility under VAWA.
Please realize that the situation is not without hope. There are numerous courses of action that can be taken to assist you during this very trying time. If you are currently in deportation and removal proceedings, cancellation of removal may be appropriate or a VAWA for battered spouse or child petition or waiver may be required. You may also qualify for a U-Visa.
Feiner & Lavy P.C., Attorneys at Law can help. By properly documenting your case, we can petition for you and your children to lawfully remain in the United States. We have offered proven legal assistance for more than 40 years and helped those with immigration troubles and stand ready to provide a high level of customer service to you and your family at reasonable fees.
VAWA offers three types of relief which may be filed on your behalf by an experienced NYC immigration attorney.
1. A self-petition for lawful permanent residence is available to spouses or former spouses and children of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. It is also available to parents of adult U.S. citizens. A current or former spouse may file if his or her children were abused by the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
2. A battered spouse or child waiver is available for those who have conditional legal permanent residence as a spouse, or under certain circumstances, as a child or parent of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
3. A VAWA cancellation of removal is possible. This is available to applicants who are currently in removal (deportation) proceedings.
For all types of relief, VAWA does not require the knowledge or participation of the abuser.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not notify abusers of the filing. VAWA does not provide relief for applicants who were joined by a civil union to the abuser. A child of an abuser may file after age 21 but before age 25 if he or she can demonstrate that abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing.
To qualify for a VAWA self-petition, the applicant must:
• Be an individual who lived with a former or current spouse, or a child who is unmarried and under 21, of an individual who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident who abused the applicant or subjected the applicant to extreme cruelty during the marriage or parental relationship;
• Be a parent of a child over 21, with the child being a U.S. citizen, and the child having subjected the applicant to abuse or extreme cruelty;
• Show good moral character (an experienced NYC immigration attorney can assist you in obtaining such proof).
• Have lived in the U.S. when the abuse occurred, or be married to an individual who is a member of the uniformed services of the U.S. or an employee of the U.S. government.
If an applicant is divorced, he or she must show a connection between the divorce and the abuse suffered, and that the marriage was entered into in good faith (not entered into solely for immigration benefits). A child under 14 years of age is presumed to be a person of good moral character. Under certain circumstances, individuals living abroad may file a self-petition.
Why a VAWA petition rather than a U visa?
USCIS limits the amount of U visas given out to 10,000 per year. There is no cap on VAWA applications. If all of the U visas have already been given out, applicants must wait until the next year to have their applications processed. This can make them ineligible. The government will not need their assistance to prosecute the criminal case of the individual who harmed them.
Our attorneys work to aggressively defend your rights and fight for you to be able to remain in the United States. We feel that you deserve the best chance that you can get to a good life in this country and strive to do all in our power to help you achieve your immigration goals.
Feiner & Lavy, P.C. Attorneys at Law are experienced NYC immigration attorneys and offer representation in NY immigration and NY criminal immigration matters. For assistance in filing VAWA applications with the USCIS, contact one of our New York City immigration attorneys at (212) 571-9200.
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