WHAT IS THE VAWA PROGRAM?
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which also includes men, was passed by the United States Congress in 1994 under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The VAWA program aims to protect foreign nationals who are victims of abuse or extreme cruelty. All victims can obtain legal status without the knowledge or consent of the abuser through a self-petition (Form I-360).
Applicants applying for the program must have been victims of abuse or extreme cruelty by a:
- U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent;
- U.S. citizen child;
- U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or ex-spouse. The VAWA must be filed within two years after divorce.
ADVANTAGES OF THE VAWA PROGRAM:
Once the petition is approved, you can receive the following benefits:
- Legal permanent residence
- Work authorization
- Public benefits
To be a victim of extreme cruelty or abuse by a U.S. citizen or resident. Submit Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status. This form is submitted only if the aggressor/abuser is a citizen; otherwise, you must wait for Form I-360 to be approved to adjust your status. Be physically present in the United States for the filing of the adjustment of status application. Be eligible for an immigrant visa application. Have an immigrant visa available for you at the time of filing I-485. Be admissible to the United States to obtain a Green Card.
Requirements for Adjustment of Status as a Derivative Applicant of VAWA:
Unmarried children under 21 years of age of the main petitioners can apply for a green card as derivative applicants. However, you cannot file as a derivative applicant if the parent is a self-petitioner. Each derivative petitioner must file their own application for a green card. Derivative applicants must follow the following requirements: If your parent is a VAWA self-petitioner and is a spouse or child of a U.S. citizen who abuses him, USCIS will consider your parent an immediate relative if a visa is available. As a derivative family member, you can be considered an immediate relative. If there is an immediate visa available for your father, you can file Form I-485 together with your father’s Form I-485. You can also file Form I-485 separately from your father’s if it is pending or has already been approved. If your father is a VAWA self-petitioner and is the spouse of a permanent resident, you, as his child, will have the same preference category and priority date as your father, the self-petitioner. You must file Form I-485 when a visa is available for your category and the priority date in immigration.
Protections for Derivatives Who Reach Majority:
Derivatives who reach 21 years of age may be considered minors for some immigration purposes. The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) allows some people to be considered minors.
Immigration law prohibits USCIS from denying your application based solely on information provided by the abuser. USCIS cannot disclose any information submitted to third parties. However, there may be certain exceptions under limited circumstances. If you change your address, you must notify USCIS immediately. Due to confidentiality protection, USCIS does not accept change of address requests online, by phone, or by mail.
What Documents Should I Submit to Apply for the VAWA Visa?
For a list of required documents, please contact us at 212-658-0095.
How to Submit an Application?
If you are in the United States, meet the necessary requirements, and there is an immediately available visa for you, you must submit Form I-485 to apply for a green card. To do this, you will need to submit:
- Form I-360 to qualify for the Green Card. If there is an immediately available visa for you, you do not have to wait until Form I-360 is approved. If you are a VAWA self-petitioner for an adjustment of status as an immediate family member, you must submit Form I-485 at any time since there is always visa availability for immediate family members. If you submit it in the family-based preference category, you would have to wait until there is a visa available for you.
If there is an immediately available visa when you submit Form I-485, you must:
- Submit Form I-360 together. After Form I-360 has been submitted and is pending, or; After Form I-360 is approved.
If you are abroad, visit our consular process section to learn how to complete this process from outside the United States.
VAWA Visa and Deportation Cancellation:
Victims of domestic violence may be eligible for deportation cancellation. This deportation cancellation is known as “VAWA cancellation” and is available for both women and men. For immigrants who qualify for this VAWA cancellation, immigration services can overlook certain aspects of their case that would otherwise prevent them from obtaining a Green Card.
It is important that you consider the following criteria: Time restrictions due to divorce or death will not apply for deportation cancellation. It will not be necessary to prove whether the marriage was entered into in good faith. However, it is always essential to demonstrate this since fraudulent marriages are not accepted for deportation cancellation.
Additional Requirements to Demonstrate:
- Have at least 3 years of continuous physical presence in the U.S.
- Have been a victim of any type of extreme cruelty, assault, or violence by a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse, parent, or child. These acts may include:
- Labor abuse.
- Social isolation.
- Sexual or psychological abuse.
- Abuses related to immigration status.
- Physical, sexual, or workplace harassment.
- Extreme cruelty.
- Physical harm.
- Mental harm.
- Exploitation, either labor or sexual.
- Prove that the victim, their parents, or children will suffer severe consequences if deported, or;
- As there is no definition in the law to assess when deportation causes harm to people, the following factors will be considered:
- The age of each person who entered the U.S. and when applying for deportation cancellation.
- If you have children, you must provide the age, number of people, and the immigration status of the person’s children.
- The level of native language of the country will also be taken into account.
- The health of each person, children, spouse, or parents for the availability of medical treatment.
- The residence time they have stayed in the U.S.
- The number of legal relatives in the U.S.
- The economic and psychological impact that deportation would bring.
- If your health is at risk by returning to your country of origin, you may be eligible to apply for asylum or refuge in the United States or use the NACARA law.
Can I Work Legally in the United States If I Submit a VAWA Self-Petition?
Self-petitions do not allow you to work legally in the United States by themselves. When USCIS approves a VAWA self-petition, USCIS may give you a legal work permit, known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
If the abuser is your U.S. citizen spouse, child, or parent, you may be able to get a work permit more quickly. The process for this is as follows:
- Submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization when your Form I-485 is pending, or;
- Request an advance EAD by filing a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document.
Advance parole documents allow you to get a work permit in the U.S. after making a temporary trip outside the country.
What Crimes Does VAWA Forgive?
There are some crimes that the VAWA visa forgives. VAWA self-petitioners can request a waiver of inadmissibility, which covers:
- Crimes of moral turpitude.
- Multiple criminal convictions.
- Narcotics trafficking of at least 30 grams.
Compared to other adjustment of status applicants who apply for this waiver, it will not be necessary to prove if a qualified relative would suffer extreme hardships if their application is rejected. However, it is important to demonstrate that you have good moral character to be eligible for the VAWA program.
If I Am Not Eligible for the VAWA Visa, Are There Other Options?
If you are a victim of domestic violence and are not eligible for the VAWA visa, you may qualify for other programs such as T visas and U visas for victims of human trafficking and crimes. It is important to have a lawyer help you determine your eligibility, as you will find at Lluis Law.
How Long Does the VAWA Visa Take?
This process has a duration that varies according to various factors. However, you can check the real-time processing time by visiting https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/