Violence Against Women Act
Marriage-based immigration laws can be problematic if you are a non-citizen who is married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) who physically abuses you or your children. In those circumstances, your spouse or parent may not want to petition for permanent residence on your behalf. First passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) authorizes immigration relief for people in your situation.
VAWA Self-Petitioning for Permanent Residence
Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), if you are a non-citizen who is married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR), and you are the victim of abuse by your spouse, you may be able to “self-petition” for permanent residency (a “green card”) without relying on your spouse to do so. (As discussed in the Family Immigration and Marriage. As of 2008, you may apply even if you entered the U.S. without inspection—in other words “Illegally.”
Who qualifies for VAWA self-petitioning?
How do I qualify to self-petition for permanent residence under VAWA?
Eligibility for self-petitioning requires all of the following:
If I am in a same-sex marriage with a U.S. citizen or LPR, will this count as being “married” for the purposes of VAWA relief?
Yes. Because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as long as your marriage is valid in the state where it took place, it qualifies for the purposes of VAWA relief.
What if I am divorced from my spouse who abused me?
Certain circumstances allow you to file for VAWA relief if you are no longer married to your abusive spouse. The exceptions are as follows:
What if I remarry?
If you remarry before the approval of a VAWA petition, it will be denied. Remarriage after approval will not invalidate the petition or grant.
Can I still file for VAWA relief if my abusive spouse (or parent) filed a family-based I-130 petition on my behalf that is pending or withdrawn?
Yes. You can transfer the priority date of the originally filed I-130 to your VAWA petition (I-360).
What if my abusive spouse (or parent) is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident?
If your spouse is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or if you are not legally married,* you are not eligible for VAWA relief. However, you may still be eligible for a U visa.
What if I am already in removal / deportation proceedings?
If you are in removal proceedings (sometimes still known as “deportation proceedings”) in an Immigration Court, and you are abused by your U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent, you may be able to apply for VAWA cancellation of removal. Like non-VAWA cancellation of removal, if an application for VAWA cancellation is granted, the removal process can be ended, and you can receive lawful permanent residence. If you are in removal proceedings, you should contact a qualified immigration lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys at Lazaro Salazar Law have experience in VAWA cancellation as well as other types of removal defenses.
How do I qualify for cancellation of removal under VAWA?
Eligibility for VAWA cancellation requires all of the following: