VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT (VAWA)
VAWA allows an abused spouse or child of a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) or an abused parent of a U.S. Citizen to self-petition for lawful status in the United States, receive employment authorization, and access public benefits.
VAWA provides domestic violence survivors with the means that are essential to escaping violence and establishing safe, independent lives.
Note that both male and female spouse victims are eligible to apply.
- An abused noncitizen is child or spouse of a U.S. citizen or an LPR.
- An abused noncitizen is parent of a U.S. citizen.
- A child (whether abused or not) of a parent who was abused by a U.S. citizen or an LPR spouse.
- If now divorced, the noncitizen must file VAWA self-petition within two years of the divorce in order to be eligible.
- The abusive family member is or was a U.S. citizen or LPR.
- The abused family member resided at some point with the abusive U.S. citizen or LPR, in or out of the United States.
- The child or spouse qualifies as a “child” or “spouse” under immigration law.
- For children, the child must be unmarried and under the age of 21. If the child is over 21, they may be able to qualify up to age 25 if the abuse was a central reason for not filing by age 21.
- The definition of a child includes step-children if the relationship was established before the child’s 18th birthday, and adopted children if the adoption was finalized before the child’s 16thbirthday.
- For spouses, the marriage must have been legal and valid in the location in which it took place. There are some exceptions to these requirements such as the abused spouse mistakenly believed that he or she was legally married to the abusive U.S. citizen or LPR resident, but the marriage was not valid due to polygamy of the abusive spouse.
- The abused family member must be a person of “good moral character.”
- The abuse must constitute battery or “extreme cruelty,” which can include psychological or emotional abuse – the abused family member need not suffer physical abuse to be eligible.
A special form of cancellation of removal for abused immigrants was created as part of the VA land is called VAWA cancellation of removal. This is not relief for which every abused immigrant can apply. To qualify, the abused immigrant must be charged by immigration authorities with an immigration violation – usually being unlawfully present in the United States or overstaying a visa – and ordered to appear before an immigration judge.
TThe following immigrants qualify for VAWA cancellation of removal:
- A person who is an abused spouse, former spouse, or intended spouse of a U.S. citizen or an LPR;
- A person who is or was an abused child of a U.S. citizen or an LPR; and
- A person who is the non-abusive parent of a child who is or was subjected to domestic violence or extreme cruelty by a U.S. citizen or an LPR parent. The parent herself or himself need not be abused.
Certain abused immigrants who do not qualify to file a VAWA self-petition might qualify for VAWA cancellation of removal:
- The parent of an abused child, regardless of the child’s U.S. citizenship, who was never married to the child’s abusive U.S. citizen or LPR parent;
- The abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or an LPR spouse who has died or any abused children of a U.S. Citizen or an LPR parent who has died over 2 years ago;
- An abused spouse who was divorced for over 2 years from the U.S. citizen or an LPR abuser spouse;
- An abused stepchild whose immigrant parent has been divorced from the abusive parent for over 2 years;
- An abused spouse or child whose citizen or LPR parent renounced citizenship or lost LPR status over 2 years ago;
- Victims of child abuse or incest abused by a U.S. citizen or LPR parent while under 21 years of age but who did not file their VAWA self-petition while they were under 21 and who are now over 21 years of age; and
- Victims of child abuse who cannot establish that they have resided with the U.S. citizen or LPR parent.