The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) entered the scene in 1994 with the goal of ending domestic violence by providing funding and support to numerous initiatives. VAWA goes beyond its name, aiming to protect all people (not just women) from all domestic abuse (not just physical violence). VAWA is particularly important to immigrants because of a 2013 update to the act that provides specific protection to immigrants who experience domestic violence.
Immigrants who have experienced domestic violence at the hands of a U.S. citizen may be eligible to petition for a green card under VAWA.
Does any abuse make me eligible for residency under VAWA?
No. You are only eligible if you were subject to extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen spouse, parent, or adult child (21 years of age or older).
Can I file a petition any time after abuse has occurred?
If you were abused by your spouse or adult child, yes. If you were abused by your parent, you must still be under 21 and unwed to petition. It may be possible to file until you are 25 if you can prove that abuse-related circumstances prevented you from filing earlier.
My U.S. citizen spouse abused my child but did not abuse me directly. Can I still petition?
Yes. In this case, you may petition for yourself and your child.
My U.S. citizen domestic partner abused me, but we were not married. Can I still petition?
No. Unfortunately, you are not eligible if you were abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend, even if you lived together. You are required to be married to them now, or to have been married to them at the time. However, if you were common law married, you could still qualify to petition.
Will Immigration notify my abuser that I filed a petition under VAWA?
No. This information is kept private so that you can apply for protection without fear of retaliation.
How do I file a VAWA petition?
The first step to filing a VAWA petition is to partner with an experienced immigration attorney who can guide you through the process and help you avoid mistakes. The Villegas Law Office team is here to help. To get started, or if you have any questions about your eligibility for protection under VAWA, give us a call at (956) 412-0707.