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Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed by Congress in 1994 to address the unique issues that victims of…

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed by Congress in 1994 to address the unique issues that victims of domestic violence and abuse face in the U.S. While anyone can experience domestic violence, regardless of their immigration status, the law provides numerous forms of protection for noncitizen women and men who are victims of domestic violence or other qualifying crimes. VAWA offers special pathways to immigration status for certain nonimmigrant victims of abuse. Victims may qualify for an immigration relief through three forms of protection: “U” visas for victims of crime, “T” visas for victims of severe forms of trafficking, and “self-petitions” under VAWA.

Who qualifies for VAWA?

  • Noncitizen spouse or child of an abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident: The battered spouse/child may apply for VAWA through a self-petitioning process, without the knowledge or involvement of the abuser
  • The spouse of a U.S. citizen or LPR whose child is being abused
  • The child of a U.S. citizen or LPR parent who is suffering abuse
  • Despite the name, VAWA is also available to men who are the victims of an abusive spouse

Many noncitizens who are victims of domestic violence do not self-petition for VAWA because they do not believe they will meet the qualifications. Some people also fear that submitting an application will put them on the USCIS’ radar, and they will be at risk of being deported. However, if you or your child is suffering abuse at the hands of a spouse or partner who is a citizen or lawful permanent residence (LPR), then applying for VAWA is the best way for a noncitizen to avoid deportation.

What are the benefits of VAWA?

  • VAWA holders are permitted to have employment authorization in the U.S.
  • Having VAWA gives victims the means to seek independence, without having to rely on their abuser for financial support
  • Once your Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant is approved, you will be eligible to Form I-485 to adjust your status to that of permanent resident

However bleak your situation may seem, you should understand that there is hope. The goal of VAWA is to protect vulnerable individuals from continued abuse by allowing them to seek and obtain LPR or U.S. citizenship status, and separate them from perpetrators of abuse and violence. The dedicated legal team at US Immigration Law Counsel cares deeply about ensuring your safety. We understand how complex your situation may be, and we’re prepared to help you identify and pursue the most strategic and efficient path forward. Our goal is to provide you with the information you need, empowering you to take control of your future. We encourage you to contact us today to discuss your situation.

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