The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted in 1994 that included a special provision allowing certain battered immigrants to self-petition for legal status in the United States without relying on abusive U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouses, parents or children to sponsor their application for adjustment of status.
PLEASE NOTE THAT MEN AS WELL AS WOMEN, MAY APPLY UNDER VAWA AND FILE THE SELF PETITION REGARDLESS OF THEIR GENDER. THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT EQUALLY APPLIES TO MEN AS IT APPLIES TO WOMEN.
Our VAWA immigration lawyers at the Galstyan Law Firm specialize in VAWA cases and have helped and continue to help immigrants facing abusive relationships with their U.S. Citizen and Permanent Resident (Green Card) spouses. To better understand how the VAWA cases work, it is essential to understand how immigration law works pertaining to family immigration. In general, in order for a non-citizen spouse to become a permanent resident, the US Citizen spouse or the Permanent Resident spouse, must first file what is called an immediate family petition. It is very common in abusive relationships for the U.S. Citizen spouse or the Permanent resident spouse to gain control and power over the immigrant spouse and use to “dependency” to their advantage.
As such, the VAWA law eliminated the requirement that the US Citizen Spouse or the Lawful Permanent Spouses file these petitions and follow up with them essentially allowing the battered or abused spouses to SELF-PETITION (VAWA self-petition). To better understand this consider a VAWA battered spouse scenario:
Anna married her U.S. Citizen Spouse, Brian. In the beginning Brian was very nice; he treated his wife nice and was an ideal husband. Brian filed an immediate relative petition for Anna to become a permanent resident. After 2 months the couple had their immigration interview and Brian’s immigration petition was granted and Anna became a conditional resident of the United States. The officer at the interview advised the couple to file for a removal of conditions within 90 days of the expiration of Anna’s green card. Within 2 weeks she received her conditional Green Card which was valid for 2 years. Let’s assume Brian now starts to get physical with Anna and domestic violence becomes a regular thing for him. He is hitting her, the police is called to their residence by the neighbors, and Anna, who by now is pregnant finds herself in a situation where there does not seem to be a way out. Every time she wants to leave him, Brian gets even more physical and tells her that he will have her deported and not file for removal of conditions. Anna, under VAWA law will be able to self-petition as a battered spouse of a U.S. citizen. Her abusive spouse will not know about the self-petition and once approved, she will get a permanent resident card (Green Card) that will not have conditions.
Other benefits of the VAWA law include derivative status for children of abused spouses. In this instance, our experienced immigration lawyers would ensure that the children of the abused spouse or battered spouses also received legal status in the U.S. Once adjustment of status is granted, Green Card approved, the VAWA petition beneficiaries will be eligible to become US Citizens through naturalization.
It is important to have an experienced immigration lawyer prepare the VAWA petition however to ensure that even after the VAWA petition is approved, certain inadmissibility grounds do not preclude the VAWA petition from becoming a permanent resent. These inadmissibility grounds can vary by type, from a criminal conviction to unlawful presence or even entry. During your initial consultation, a VAWA immigration attorney shall advise you on this and guide you further on the needed steps to ensure that the case proceeds successfully.
Cancelation of Removal in VAWA cases
In certain situations, the battered souses of US citizens, shall find themselves in deportation or removal proceeding. The should never stop the abused spouse from filing a self-petition under VAWA as even while the case is pending for review, most immigration judges shall postpone the final hearing on removal, until the battered souse case under VAWA petition is finalized. Upon approval of the VAWA petition, our firm can either apply for VAWA cancelation of removal from the U.S. under the VAWA provision or file a motion to terminate the proceeding and seek permission to apply for adjustment of status. Even in cases where the battered spouse entered illegally, i.e. fake documents, crossed the border and entered without inspection, these can be waived under VAWA provisions.
If you are married to a U.S. Citizen (USC) or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR, green card holder) and during your marriage you or your child has been subjected to battery, abuse or domestic violence by your USC or LPR spouse, you are eligible to file a VAWA self-petition. As unfortunate as it is many USCs and LPRs use the statuses of their alien spouses to their advantage, and what we many times see is a foreign national taking abuse from his or her spouses in fear of deportation, and being taken away from their children.