A battered spouse, child or parent, may file an immigrant visa petition under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA)1. This law allows certain spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents (also known as “green card” holders) to file a petition, without the abuser’s knowledge, to allow them to seek legal immigration status—and safety from the abuser.

VAWA — Available to Women and Men
Although the Act specifies “women”, it also applies to men. The abuser will not be notified that an application has been filed for immigration benefits

Who can file under VAWA?

  • Spouse: An abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident may file, and any unmarried children who are under 21 if they have not filed for themselves may also be included.
  • Parent: The parent of a child who has been abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse may file for relief under the Violence Against Women Act -VAWA. Children may be included, including those who have not been abused, if they have not filed for themselves. An application may also be filed by a parent of a U.S. citizen if there has been abuse by a U.S. citizen son or daughter.
  • Child: A child may file for VAWA benefits if under 21, unmarried and have been abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent. A child may file after age 21 but before age 25 if he or she can demonstrate that the abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing.

When is an alien spouse eligible to apply under VAWA?A spouse is eligible to file an abuse case, when:

1) the spouse must be married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser, or the marriage to the abuser was terminated by death; or

2) a divorce (related to the abuse) within the 2 years prior to filing; or

3) the spouse lost or renounced citizenship or permanent resident status within the 2 years prior to filing due to an incident of domestic violence; or

4) the spouse believed that he or she was legally married to the abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse but the marriage was not legitimate solely because of the bigamy of the abusive spouse;

5) the spouse must have been abused in the United States by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, or have been abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse abroad while the spouse was employed by the U.S. government or a member of the U.S. uniformed services;

6) the marriage must have been entered into in good faith, and not solely for immigration benefits;

7) the victim/applicant must have resided with their spouse;

8) the victim/applicant must be a person of good moral character.

When is a child eligible to apply under VAWA?

A child is eligible to file an abuse case, when:

1) the parent is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser, even when the parent lost citizenship or lawful permanent resident status due to domestic violence;

2) the abuse occurred in the United States by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent;

3) the child has been abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent abroad while the parent was employed by the U.S. government or a member of the U.S. uniformed services;

4) the child has resided with the abusive parent;

5) there is evidence to prove the relationship to your parent;

6) there is evidence of good moral character( if over the age of 14).

When is a parent eligible to apply under VAWA?

A parent may file if

1) a parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter or the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who lost or renounced citizenship status related to domestic violence or died within 2 years prior to filing;

2) the parent has been abused by a U.S. citizen son or daughter;

3) the parent resided with the abusive son or daughter;

4) their good moral character is established.

The VAWA Filing Process
If sufficient proof is presented, the government will issue a VAWA Prima Facie Determination, which means that the case will be considered for final approval. The process can take a number of months to complete. Once final approval is received, it may be possible to file for lawful permanent residence. Even if a person does not have legal immigration status in the United States, approval will allow a person to remain and work in the United States in a status referred to as “deferred action”.

1 The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA as it is more commonly known, provides relief for both men and women.