Violence Against Women
Act and Immigration
What is Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Violence Against Women Act or in short VAWA was the first legislation to address violence against women. This act was passed by Congress in 1994. VAWA essentially recognized the damage caused by domestic and sexual violence and allocated funds for helping the victims.
VAWA and Immigration
This act came as a route to liberation for many battered non-citizens because it gave them an inroad towards a proper immigration status. Before VAWA a battered immigrant stayed trapped in an abusive relationship for various reasons. They faced the threat from the U.S. citizens or the lawful permanent resident that they would either
- Not file an immigrant petition for them;
- Withdraw the filed petition;
- Report to the authorities and get the battered immigrant deported.
VAWA allowed the battered spouse or children to become permanent residents without having to rely on the U.S citizen or the lawful permanent resident abuser.
Self Petitioning by the battered Spouse/children
Under VAWA the battered spouse and/or children can file a self petition. (Form I-360). The abuser does not have any part in this petition. The abusive U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident need not be aware that such a petition is being filed or has been filed. In this self-petition the battered spouse can also include her children. An approval notice for the form I-360, gives the battered immigrants a legal status. They become eligible to receive employment authorization while they wait to adjust status and become lawful permanent residents.
Do you qualify to file a self-petition
To file for a VAWA self petition you need to be an intending spouse, spouse, child or parents of a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. If the abuser is neither a US citizen nor lawful permanent resident then you do not qualify for getting legal residency under VAWA. A self-petitioner spouse must submit marriage certificate and a self petitioner child must submit his or her birth certificate with the application.
Basic Requirements for self Petitioning under VAWA
- A) Marriage was intended or entered in good faith.
The self petitioner should prove that the marriage was intended to lead a life together and not for the purposes of getting immigration benefits. For evidence you could use: wedding pictures, Joint bank account, joint tax returns, a lease, utility bills, joint property etc. An affidavit by the self petitioner can also be used as evidence along with the above.
- B) Extreme cruelty or battery:
|The self-petitioner should demonstrate that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent subjected the applicant to extreme cruelty or battery. For a self-petitioning spouse the abuse towards her or her child should have taken place during the marriage. A child who is self petitioning should show that he or she was subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident parent. For evidence of abuse you could use: self petitioners affidavit, medical records, police reports, photographs of injury or any other documents or affidavits which give credibility to your claim.
- C) Good Moral Character:
The self-petitioner must show that he or she has good moral character. The government is generally concerned about your criminal record. A clean police report (police clearance) from the place where you have lived for past six months or more and letters or affidavits from friends stating that the self petitioner has good moral character could be used as evidence of good moral character.
- D) Residence Past or present with the abusive U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident:
The self petitioner must be residing or have resided in the past with the abusive U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent. Along with this it is also required that the self petitioner is residing in the United States.
Note: If the self petitioner resides abroad, then the self petitioner must show that
1) the abuser works for the US government,
2) is a member of the US military,
3) or had subjected the self petitioner to battery or extreme cruelty in the United States in the past.
- E) Status of the Abuser:
The self-petitioning provision of VAWA is only meant for spouses and children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. As evidence of abuser�s status the self petitioner can submit the U.S birth certificate, U.S passport, naturalization certificate etc for U.S. citizen abuser. For a lawful permanent resident abuser the residency card can be used as evidence.
Procedure of Self Petition
With documents which satisfy the requirements stated above the self petitioner can file a form I -360, it is advisable that the self petitioner should consult an immigration attorney, or an immigration organization for assistance in the self-petition process.
The provisions of VAWA were updated in the year 2000 in the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act. The new act expanded on the various protections given under the 1994 VAWA and made the self-petitioning process smoother in many regards.
VAWA suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal: Next Issue
An Important disclaimer: The information provided is not legal advice. Reading this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Readers must not act upon any information without first seeking advice from a qualified attorney.