Your spouse may never have filed for your permanent resident status or you simply never received status. You may now be facing divorce or have already divorced. Marriage can be messy and when it turns abusive, downright scary. In creating the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) immigration provisions, Congress sought to provide a way for battered or abused immigrants to legalize their immigration status and not feel forced to stay in an abusive relationship solely because of their immigration status. Survivors of violence should never have to choose between their immigration status and their personal safety.
VAWA creates a way for an abused immigrant to legalize their status but doesn’t require that the immigrant leave the abusive spouse. Congress did not want to get in the middle of the marriage and violence dynamics. A VAWA Immigrant Visa can lead to work authorization, which is empowering for many women who are stuck in domestic violence relationships because they are financially dependent on their spouse. An approved VAWA Immigrant Visa can also lead to a green card, regardless of any illegal entry into the U.S.
To self-petition under VAWA, you must prove that you have been battered by, or been the subject of extreme cruelty, from a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. However, it’s not a requirement that you were physically abused. Abuse can come in many forms so call us to discuss whether you may qualify for VAWA.
In addition to proving the abuse, you must also prove that you were in a good faith marriage with your abusive spouse, that you resided with you abusive spouse and that you are a person of good moral character. What does this mean? You have to show that you had a real relationship and that you lived together through pieces of evidence like a joint address, joint bills and photos. You must also show that you are a person that has positive equities and makes a valuable contribution to society. This can come in the form of letters of recommendations from teachers, co-workers, fellow church members, and friends. Evidence of school, volunteerism, and other community work can also show good moral character. The petition must be filed within the two years following any final divorce decree.
We understand it can be difficult to talk about the abuse you have gone through. This is a completely confidential process so your husband will not know that you are filing a VAWA case. Information contained in your VAWA filing will be kept confidential, even from the authorities.
What if I never called the police against my spouse?
We may still be able to help you because evidence of physical abuse is not a requirement.
Am I eligible to obtain a green card as an abused spouse through VAWA if I entered the U.S. illegally or can’t prove I entered legally (waived in)?
Yes, survivors who entered the U.S. without inspection (EWI: entered illegally) are still eligible for permanent residence (green card) and so not have to leave the U.S. to try to obtain a green card at a consulate abroad.
Can I apply for VAWA if I am still living with my spouse?
Yes, it is possible to file a VAWA case while you are still living with your spouse. Call us to discuss your options.
How long will it take to make a decision on my case?
As of December 2015, cases are taking approximately 5 months for a decision to be made.
Will my husband/ex-spouse get into trouble for what he has done to me? I don’t want him to know that I’ve told anyone about what has happened.
This is a completely confidential process so your husband will not know that you are filing a VAWA case. Information contained in your VAWA filing will be kept confidential, even from the authorities.