VAWA Lawyers in Houston Are Available When You Need Help Filing a Petition
Gaining permanent resident status in the United States is a dream for many immigrants, but what happens if your spouse is holding you back from being able to follow through? Domestic abuse is an, unfortunately, all too common reality and many battered spouses are unable to apply for permanent residency because their partner won’t allow them or cooperate with the joint filing. However, the Violence Against Women Act offers another option.
If your spouse is holding your immigration status as leverage to abuse or manipulate you, a VAWA petition may be able to help you gain freedom while protecting your legal status. Contact the legal team at the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon, PLLC in Houston, Texas, to find out more.
How Does VAWA Help Protect Immigrants?
The U.S. Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, and while this act had several important provisions with it, one of the most important is that it provides a way for battered spouses to be able to get legal permanent resident status in the United States without needing their abuser’s approval or cooperation. If your self-petition is approved, you will be able to be eligible for legal employment and may also qualify for certain public benefits, which can make it easier for you to establish an independent life away from your abuser.
Who Is Eligible for a VAWA Self-Petition?
To be eligible for a VAWA self-petition, you need to meet three main requirements:
- Be in a qualifying relationship. You need to either be married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or be the child or parent of a U.S. citizen. If you are married, you will need to show that it was a “good faith marriage,” which means that you entered into the marriage for legitimate reasons.
- Be a victim of abuse. This could include physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, threats of violence, intimidation, and other control tactics.
- Be of “good character.” While this is a general statement that is purposefully vague, you may need to show that you have no criminal record and have been positively contributing to society.
If you have questions about any of these qualifications or aren’t sure if you are eligible, an immigration attorney can go through them with you to ensure you understand your options.
What Is the Battered Spouse Waiver?
The Violence Against Women Act provides for a battered spouse waiver and a battered child waiver. These waivers are designed to help you be able to get a lawful permanent residence without having to have your spouse sign a joint petition. Without this waiver, you would need to have been married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident for at least two years, and then, your spouse would need to file the petition for your residency. In situations of abuse, the spouse may use this as a bargaining chip or way to control the spouse trying to get residency. To qualify for this waiver, you will need to show that your marriage was a “good faith marriage” and that you were a victim of abuse during the marriage.
What Happens If My VAWA Petition Is Denied?
One of the most common reasons for a VAWA petition to be denied is you have an issue with one of the many “grounds of inadmissibility” rules for United States immigration. There are chapters of reasons for inadmissibility, and they range from having a “communicable disease of public significance” to having a criminal history. If you believe that your VAWA petition may be denied for one of these reasons, it’s important to talk with an attorney before you start the process. You may be able to file a waiver. Waivers are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office.
You don’t have to live in fear of deportation or as a victim of abuse. An immigration attorney can help you file a VAWA self-petition and access other resources that may be of benefit to you. Get started by calling our Houston office at 281-606-0800 to schedule an appointment.