Women in the United States, particularly immigrant women, are very susceptible to sexual, physical or mental violence. The VAWA Act has been enforced to protect female and male immigrants from marital abuse. The VAWA immigration application can fast-track their green card process, when they are exposed to violence and crimes, as a result of their immigration status. Here we will discuss the VAWA immigration act in detail.
What is the VAWA Act?
VAWA or Violence Against Women Act is an important law in the United States, designed to help immigrant women and men seek protection from violence and crimes perpetrated on them by their US citizen relatives.
The VAWA immigration act is actually an application that can lead to Permanent Residency or Green Card. Immigrant victims of abuse can circumvent the otherwise drawn-out Green Card process and apply to become lawful permanent residents or Naturalized citizens in the US through the VAWA act.
The crimes VAWA covers are:
- Marital abuse
- Sexual assault
- Domestic violence
- Dating violence
- Verbal abuse
- Emotional degradation
- Financial abuse
- Threats against self or children
- Other forms of exploitation
What are the VAWA requirements you must meet to apply for VAWA protection?
In order to apply for the VAWA immigration status, applicants must fulfil certain VAWA requirements first. These include:
- You are in a qualifying relationship with a person who is a lawful United States citizen or permanent resident. And they have exhibited violence or cruelty towards you. By “qualifying relationship”, we mean:
Spouse of the lawful US Citizen. Your marriage should have taken place in good faith and must be currently valid at the time of submitting the VAWA immigration petition. Or, the marriage must have been terminated less than two years prior to applying for VAWA. You will be eligible if:
- You married a lawful US citizen under the wrongful belief that they were unmarried; only to find out they were already married.
- You are the widow of a lawful US citizen (not a PR holder), who abused you and who passed away less than two years ago.
- You are the spouse of an individual who lost their immigration status due to domestic violence charges less than two years ago.
- Parent of an unmarried and under 21 years age child and you are a victim of violence at the hands of a lawful US Citizen.
- Child, who is unmarried and under 21 years old, of the lawful US Citizen. You will be eligible if:
- The abuser is/was a step-parent who married your parent when you were under 17 years old.
- The abuser is/was an adoptive parent who adopted you when you were younger than 16 years old.
- The abusive parent lost their immigration status due to domestic violence sometime in the past two years.
- You have been abandoned by one or both parents or a victim of parental neglect.
- Over 21 years old child of an abuser who was a lawful US citizen. You will be eligible only if:
- You are over 21 but under 25 and unmarried.
- You can prove that your abuser was the primary and central reason you did not file for VAWA before you turned 21.
- You can prove that your circumstances when you were 21 or younger, would have made you eligible for VAWA immigration protection.
Parent of the lawful US citizen and who has been subjected to extreme cruelty or been physically battered by their child. You will be eligible if:
- Your abusive child is a US citizen (and not a PR holder).
- Your abusive child died sometime in the previous two years.
- Your abusive child lost their US citizenship status due to abuse.
- Your abuse took place on American soil.
- You were living with your abuser during the time of the abuse.
- You are of good moral character.
How to apply for VAWA?
Once you fulfil all the VAWA requirements pertaining to your qualifying status, you can officially apply for the VAWA act by following these steps:
- As a self-petitioner, fill in and submit USCIS Form I-360. This is an application for the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or applicant who has been an abused relative of a US citizen.
- Submit supporting documents of your relationship, the abuser’s citizenship status and the evidence of your bona fide relationship and abuse. These documents include:
- Marriage certificate
- Birth certificate (of the victim/s)
- Certificate of Citizenship of the abuser
- LPR status of the abuser
- Affidavits by relatives, friends and neighbors who have witnessed your abuse at the hands of the abuser.
- Medical reports from practicing US doctors to prove physical injury or psychiatric trauma due to the abuse.
- Police report (if available, although not required).
- Submit your visa petition to the USCIS and receive the I-797 Notice of Action “Receipt Notice.” This contains the Priority Date, which is the date on which the USCIS is expected to review your VAWA immigration application. At this point, it will offer you a deportation deferment option, which will allow you to reside in the US and apply for a work permit. This deferred action will need to be renewed until the time you are granted your green card.
- Fill in and submit Form I-485, which is the Application for Adjustment of Status to apply for permanent residency or green card. You can also apply for Form I-765, which is the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and apply for a job in the US. You can also apply for Form I-131, which is the Application for Travel Document, to travel in and out of the US at this time.
- Pay the fees for the VAWA immigration process. It is usually $1225 for the entire VAWA green card and biometrics process combined.
- Attend the personal interview at the USCIS office when it is scheduled. You can bring any new evidence you find of the abuse along with the other documents you are asked to submit.
If you need assistance in understanding VAWA requirements or you require help in applying for your VAWA immigration green card, please contact us at Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office.