Under the VAWA immigration program, victims of domestic violence can apply to obtain permanent residence in the United States.
The VAWA immigration act, or Violence Against Women Act, is a United States federal law that protects immigrants from domestic violence and abuse. And in certain cases, victims of domestic violence can apply for adjustment of status in order to obtain residency under this program. But how do you know if you are eligible?
What can the VAWA immigration act do for victims of domestic abuse?
If you have been a victim of domestic abuse and do not have permanent residence in the country, you are eligible to apply for residence through the Violence Against Women Act.
Being a victim of domestic violence is an extremely serious situation that can impact and damage many aspects of a person’s life. But in the case of immigrants, it can negatively impact their chances to obtain legal residency.
Many migrants often obtain permanent residency through immediate family members or spouses who are US citizens or permanent residents. Since it is the family member or spouse who normally submits a petition to USCIS to grant residency to the migrant, the victim can be easily trapped in an extremely vulnerable situation with no prospects of escape.
The VAWA immigration program sought to solve this problem, allowing these migrants to make a self-petition to obtain permanent residence. If the petition is approved, permanent residence is granted to the applicant.
Eligibility Criteria for VAWA Self-Petitioners
Eligible for VAWA immigration are all victims of acts of domestic violence, cruelty or abuse by:
- A spouse or former spouse with US citizenship or permanent residence
- Father or mother with US citizenship or permanent residence
- Son or daughter with US citizenship
Application for Minor Children and Additional Qualifying Criteria
If you have children under the age of 21 and you are a VAWA self-petitioner, you can petition for adjustment of status for them as well. However, when the abuse or domestic violence comes from a son or daughter who is a permanent resident, but not a citizen of the United States, VAWA does not apply to request adjustment of status.
For people who are victims of their resident or citizen parents, the self-petition for adjustment of status is possible until the age of 21. There is an extension up to 25 if the victim can prove that the abuse she suffered caused her not to file earlier.
Also, stepchildren of domestic abusers can apply for VAWA residency even if their parent has divorced the abusive resident or citizen. A stepmother or stepfather can also file a self-petition if the abuse is from a US citizen stepchild, even if she has divorced the abuser’s parent.
Other relevant criteria
To make a self-petition for residence through the VAWA immigration program, it is necessary to verify not only the existence of an abusive relationship, but also that:
- The victim resides or has resided with the aggressor who is a citizen or permanent resident
- The victim has good moral character
The criterion of good moral character is met by submitting court and police documents of all criminal proceedings, criminal charges, arrests, and convictions of the self-petitioner as a certificate. USCIS recognizes that self-petitioners may find themselves in conflict situations with their abusers that result in arrests or criminal charges, and in cases where the motive for these situations can be proven to be relative to the abuse situation, these incidents cannot be cited as ground for denying residency. Likewise, minor incidents or issues will not necessarily affect USCIS’s decision on your moral character.
Defend your rights and obtain protection through the VAWA immigration program
If you qualify for adjustment of status via VAWA, you must gather all documentation requested by USCIS and submit the relevant forms. However, due to the particularly delicate situation in which self-petitioners usually find themselves, the assistance of a specialist immigration lawyer is highly recommended.
If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon we have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law, and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at 281-606-5362!