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WYRWTK | Episode #17 | Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – Who is Eligible & What are the Requirements?


Transcript: Hi, I am Attorney Shaffer. Today on “What You Really Want to Know” we take a look at who is eligible to get a green card through the Violence Against Women’s Act, also known as VAWA and what are the requirements to apply.

If you do not have a Green Card and you, or your child, were battered or abused by certain U.S Citizens, (“USC”), or Lawful Permanent Residents, (“LPR”), relatives, you may be eligible to file a Violence Against Women’s Act or VAWA petition. Despite the name, both men and women can apply for VAWA. Just like a marriage petition, a VAWA petition can be filed concurrently with the application to adjust status, which is the application to get you a Green Card. Unlike a marriage petition, you may still be eligible to file for VAWA and a Green Card even if you entered the country unlawfully, without the need for a waiver.

So what are the requirements to apply for VAWA? There are several.

  1. You have a qualifying relationship with an abusive USC or LPR. There are 3 categories of qualifying relationships: spouse, child and parent.

    • To file as a child:

      • You have to be under age 21, however you can file up to age 25, if the abuse caused the delay in filing;

      • You must be unmarried, and;

      • You must have been abused by a USC or LPR parent

    • To file as a Parent:

      • You must have a USC son or daughter;

      • You must have been subject to abuse by your USC son or daughter, and;

      • Your USC son or daughter must be age 21 or over when you file the petition.

    • And finally, to file as a Spouse of an abusive USC or LPR:

      • You have to either be currently married to the abusive spouse, OR;

      • Previously married to the abusive spouse. If you are no longer married to your abuser and your marriage was terminated by death or a divorce, you have 2 years from the date of the death or divorce to file the VAWA petition. In addition, if it was terminated due to divorce, the divorce must had to have been based on abuse.

  2. You must have lived with your abusive spouse, parent or child at some point for some period of time;

  3. You are a person of good moral character.

  4. Extreme Cruelty/ battery - In general, you have to have been the one who suffered battery/extreme cruelty by your USC or LPR relative, with one exception. If you are filing as an abused spouse, you can file based on the abuse your child suffered at the hands of your spouse, even if you personally were not the subject of the abuse, and;

  5. The final factor only applies if you are filing in the spouse or child category. If you are filing as an abused spouse or child, then you also have to show that either yourself or your parent entered into the marriage in good faith, and not solely to obtain an immigration benefit.

VAWA petitions are challenging due to the lack of available evidence. A lot of VAWA petitioners, unfortunately, are forced to run away from their marital home and either are unaware of the evidentiary requirements or are unable to preserve many of the key pieces of evidence needed to establish this eligibility. This is why it is essential to have an experienced VAWA lawyer assist you in the process, as we can ensure that you give yourself the best opportunity, the best chance possible to present your case and help you locate and obtain all of the necessary evidence.

VAWA petitions are sensitive in nature. The facts that lead someone to need to file one of these petitions are often upsetting, overwhelming and emotional. Many victims of abusive domestic relationship are unaware that they are even victims. In fact, many cases in our office for VAWA start when a client first comes into us because they are in the country unlawfully and either their marriage is on the rocks and there has been no marriage petition filed yet or the marriage petition before their marriage started to go bad and now they are worried because if they leave their spouse that will mean they will need to leave the US and most likely their chances of ever obtaining legal status in the US is looking like slim to none at that point. But after a brief discussion with many of these clients we a determine that the client is actually being abused. And we are able to determine this relatively quickly because abusive domestic relationships generally follow a similar pattern and display similar red flags. In these cases, our first concern is our client’s safety and we ensure this before we dive into any immigration matters. We first will discuss with the client what steps he or she should take to protect himself or herself. Depending on the circumstances, we have advised clients to do everything from immediately, that second, calling the police, to going to family court to file for an order of protection, leaving the marital residence for good, as well as many other precautionary measures. Once we know our client is safe, we will determine his or her eligibility to file a VAWA petition.

The important thing to know is that you are NOT alone and your abuser will NOT be notified if you file a VAWA petition. If you think that you may be eligible for VAWA or you afraid for you or a family members’ safety, contact us today for help.

That is all for this episode of “What You Really Want to Know.” Thanks for watching!

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