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Permanent Residence and the Violence Against Women Act

Posted on in Immigration

DuPage County permanent residence attorneys, Violence Against Women Act, permanent residenceIt is an unfortunate reality that many people in the United States are the victims of violence at the hands of their loved ones. While it is more common for women to experience such treatment, it affects men as well. Sometimes, it can become an issue of survival. If your abuser is a United States citizen or permanent resident, there may be a way out for you. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) permits battered spouses to apply for permanent residence to get away from their abusers (despite the title, both genders are encouraged to apply).

Can Any Immigrant Apply?

Upon its passage in 1994, VAWA only applied to women, though its benefits were later extended to those who identify as male or non-binary. It recognizes the necessity to allow non-citizens who meet the requirements and are the victims of domestic violence a chance to start a new life without their abuser’s presence. However, the immigrant must be either the spouse or child of their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident abuser, or the parent of their U.S. citizen abuser, to qualify under VAWA. You may also file as an abused spouse if your child has been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse.

The full eligibility (those eligible to file) from the USCIS website is as follows:
  • Spouse: You are able to file for yourself if you are, or were, the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Additionally, you can file as an abused spouse if your child has been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. Finally, you can include on your petition your unmarried children who are under 21 if they have not filed for themselves;
  • Parent: You are able file if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen in addition to having been abused by your U.S. citizen son or daughter; or
  • Child: You are able file for yourself if you are an abused child under the age of 21, unmarried, and have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent. Your children may also be included on your petition. Additionally, you can file for yourself as a child after age 21 but before age 25 if you are able to demonstrate that the abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing.

Unlike T and U visas, VAWA is referred to as a self-petition status, and there is no limit to the amount which may be filed in any specific year. Self-petition means that a VAWA applicant neither requires a sponsor nor must be the victim of a demonstrable crime. In other words, if a person has been battered by his or her U.S. citizen spouse, parent or child, but the batterer was not convicted of a crime, then he or she is still permitted to apply for permanent residence under VAWA. Abuse must be proven, but not necessarily via a conviction in a U.S. court of law.

What Do I Have to Prove?

If you have one of the familial relationships with your abuser, there are some criteria you still must be able to show in order to be considered for lawful permanent residence. They include:

  • Proving that your abuser is a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident, in the case of spouses and children) and that you have a relationship with him or her;
  • Proving that if your abuser is a spouse, that your marriage was entered into in good faith (and not merely for immigration purposes);
  • Showing you have had a continual presence in the U.S. for at least three years;
  • Good moral character (that is, showing that you have no crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies on your record, or that you have obtained the sufficient waivers for any offenses); and
  • Showing that you are not inadmissible, or that you have obtained a waiver for the relevant ground of inadmissibility.

If you do not qualify for permanent residence, you may still qualify for cancellation of removal under VAWA. Cancellation is essentially a discretionary grant available if you are in removal proceedings, where you must prove the same elements, plus the fact that removal would constitute an extreme hardship (rather than a mere inconvenience).

Ask for Experienced Assistance

If you are an abuse victim, you deserve safety, plain and simple. Navigating the immigration process is time-consuming and very often dredges up terrible memories. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side can be a lifesaver. The compassionate DuPage County permanent residence attorneys at Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices will help answer your questions and give you the best possible tools with which to get yourself out of a hideous situation. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.


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