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VAWA Petitions Allow Victims of Domestic Violence to Gain Temporary Legal Status

Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, with reauthorizations following in 2000 and 2012, giving even more protections to victims of domestic violence.   In 2013, the Senate extended this bill to include same sex couples.  This law recognized that undocumented aliens were often trapped inside abusive relationships because seeking help against their abusers meant exposing their lack of legal status in the U.S. Now victims of domestic violence can “self-petition” for temporary status in the United States, without relying on a family member to petition for them. You may be eligible to file an application if you are undocumented and a:

  • Spouse of an abusive U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. You must prove that:
    • You are married or that your marriage ended due to death or divorce less than two years ago, or you believed your marriage was legitimate but it was void due to your spouse’s bigamy.
    • You or your child suffered battery/extreme cruelty from the spouse.
    • You entered your marriage in good faith, not solely for immigration benefits.
    • You resided together with your spouse.
    • You are a person of good moral character.
  • Parent of an abusive U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. You must prove that:
    • Your U.S. citizen or LPR child is at least 21 years of age or was at least 21 years old and is deceased for less than two years at the time of your filing.
    • You suffered battery/extreme cruelty from your child.
    • You resided with your child.
    • You are a person of good moral character.
  • Child under 21 of an abusive citizen or legal permanent resident. You must prove that:
    • You suffered battery/extreme cruelty by your parent.
    • You resided with your abusive parent.
    • You are a child of less than 14 years of age or a person of good moral character.

If the person who abused you renounced U.S. citizenship or lost LPR status, you may still be eligible to file, depending on the circumstances and the amount of time that has elapsed.

Benefits of a VAWA self-petition

Although the law that protects battered immigrants is titled “The Violence Against Women Act,” it is actually gender neutral, so males can receive protection under this law. A successful VAWA petition can lead to permanent residency, with all its benefits:

  • If you are inadmissible for any reason, you may be eligible for a waiver that is more lenient to this group of applicants. Family members can also apply as derivatives.
  • You will be eligible for work authorization once your VAWA self petition is approved

Undocumented aliens who are trapped in abusive relationships should take advantage of VAWA, but only with the supervision of a knowledgeable immigration attorney. At Bretz & Coven, LLP, you’ll find skilled and concerned attorneys who want to see you get the protection you deserve. Call us today at 1 (212) 267-2555 or contact us online to schedule a confidential appointment. 

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