Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – Abused Daughters & Sons, Mothers & Fathers and Spouses
What is VAWA?
VAWA is a protection that the United States government provides to immigrants who have suffered domestic violence and who are married to Legal Permanent Residents or American Citizens. This protection allows the person to file a petition for an immigrant visa (green card).
Is identifying as a woman a requirement to be eligible under VAWA?
No. Despite the name of the legislation, a person’s gender is not a requirement to be eligible.
Who is protected under VAWA?
- Abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- Spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident whose child has been abused by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- Abused child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- Abused mother/father of a U.S. citizen who qualifies as an “immediate relative”
Who can apply under VAWA?
Any person, of those mentioned in the previous question, can make a request on their own without the intervention of the abusive U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
Benefits for minors under VAWA?
VAWA allows the applicant to include their children as beneficiaries derived from the petition. If the person is eligible to apply for their green card, their children may also be eligible. The children do not need to be related to the abuser to qualify. In order for the child to qualify as the derivative beneficiary, they must be single and under the age of 21 at the time the petition is filed.
Requirements that must be met in order to apply under VAWA?
- The applicant must show that they married the United States citizen or lawful permanent resident in good faith. There are two exceptions:
- Intended marriages – May satisfy requirements. An intended marriage for VAWA purposes is when the abused spouse and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident marry in good faith, but the marriage is not legitimate because the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is still married to someone else.
- Termination of marriage – In certain cases, the person can apply for VAWA even if they are no longer married to the abusive spouse. To qualify, the person must have been married in good faith to the abusive spouse. The marriage must have ended within the last two years. The termination must be related to the battery or extreme cruelty of the abusive spouse.
- To qualify for VAWA as an abused child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, the person must show that they have a mother/father-child relationship with the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- To qualify for VAWA as the abused parent of a U.S. citizen, the person must show that they are the mother/father of the abusive U.S. citizen. The person must show that they are eligible to be classified as an immediate relative of the abusive U.S. citizen. The abusive U.S. citizen must be at least 21 years old.
- There are 2 aspects to the residency requirement:
- The person must reside in the U.S. at the time they file the petition. If they are not residing in the U.S. at the time the petition is filed, the person must be able to show that the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is an employee of the U.S. government or a member of the uniformed services or that the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident subjected them or their child to extreme cruelty or assault in the U.S.; or,
- The person must have resided with the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident at some point. The person does not have to currently live with the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Their residence with the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident didn’t have to be in the U.S.
- The abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. If the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident no longer possesses that status, the person may still qualify for VAWA if they file within two years of the loss of status if the loss was related to a domestic violence case.
- To show that the person has been abused, they must prove that they have been abused or were subjected to extreme cruelty. Abuse is also defined as any act or threat of violence. It includes psychological abuse, rape, incest, and forced prostitution.
- Must be able to show that the person is and was a person of good moral character for a period of three years prior to the filing of the petition.
What documents are required for VAWA?
The documents to be included in the VAWA application will depend on the specifics of each case. Here is a general list of some of the documents that may end up being included in the petition:
- Cover letter – It will explain the entire application, the basis for applying, the documents included, etc. It is usually prepared by the applicant’s attorney.
- Form I-360 – United States Citizenship and Immigration Services form used to apply for VAWA.
- Applicant Declaration – One of the most important documents in the application. The person must explain in detail how each element of a VAWA claim is satisfied. The person should preferably work with an immigration attorney to ensure that the statement covers all points.
- Marriage Certificate – It will be used to show that the person was or is married to the abusive spouse.
- Birth Certificate – Will be used to prove that the person is the child or the mother/father of the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- Lease Agreement or Property Deed – Can be used to show that the person resided with the abusive U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident. Also, it can be used to show that the person was in a good faith marriage to the abusive spouse (if applicable).
- Copy of the birth certificate, passport or green card of the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident – Will be used to show that the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident has such status.
- I-94 Arrival and Departure Record – May help establish physical presence of the person at the time of abuse or currently in the U.S.
- Medical Records, Police Reports, Injury Photographs, Psychologist Reports – May be helpful in showing abusive behavior by an abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- Signed statements from friends and family – They can help show that the person has good moral character, that there was a good faith marriage (if applicable), and that the abuse actually took place.
- Joint tax returns, Joint bank statements, Photographs with the spouse, Utility bills addressed to both of you – Can help prove that the person was in a good faith marriage with the abusive spouse (if applicable).
- Letters of Police Clearance – Necessary to demonstrate good moral character. If the person is 14 or older, they must include police clearance letters from all jurisdictions in which you resided for at least six months (during the three-year period prior to submitting your application).
Benefits of applying under VAWA?
- Permanent legal residence in the United States;
- The ability to legally work in the U.S.;
- Social assistance benefits for those who qualify; and,
- Filing a motion to reconsider under VAWA will result in an automatic stay of removal. This means that the person cannot be removed or deported from the U.S. until the appropriate immigration court or agency that had jurisdiction in the case makes a decision on the motion.