San Francisco VAWA Attorney
What Is VAWA?
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that almost 20 people are abused each minute in the U.S. by an intimate partner. Many victims stay in the shadows, and immigrant victims are often more reluctant to act for fear of being deported.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed by Congress in 1994. This law allows an abused spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident or an abused parent of a U.S. citizen to Self-Petition (Form I-360) for lawful status in the U.S. If granted protection under VAWA, the immigrant can receive employment authorization and access certain public benefits. VAWA provides domestic violence survivors a means to escape violence and establish meaningful, independent lives.
The application process can be completed without the knowledge of the abusive family member. You do not have to wait for your I-360 to be approved before applying for your green card (Form I-485).
Who Qualifies for VAWA?
You may qualify for a VAWA-based green card if you suffered from extreme cruelty or abuse committed by your:
- U.S. citizen spouse/former spouse
- U.S. citizen parent
- U.S. citizen son or daughter
- Lawful permanent resident spouse/former spouse
- Lawful permanent resident parent
Can a Man File a Petition for Himself Under the Violence Against Women Act?
Yes. Under the VAWA, individuals of any gender can Self-Petition for a green card. Additionally, protection was expanded to include gays, lesbians, transgender individuals, Native Americans and immigrants in the 2013 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.
Can a Divorced Spouse Self-Petition?
Yes. You may still be eligible if the marriage was terminated within two years prior to the date of filing, or if you can demonstrate a direct connection between the divorce and the abuse. A battered spouse who cannot demonstrate such a connection may be eligible for battered spouse Cancellation of Removal if you meet the other requirements. You also must have been physically present in the U.S. for three years immediately preceding the filing of the application for Cancellation of Removal, and you must demonstrate that your removal from the U.S. would result in extreme hardship to you or your child.
Does VAWA Protect Undocumented Immigrants?
Yes. Typically, family-based green cards require a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to sponsor their foreign-citizen family member. VAWA waives this stipulation and provides certain immigrants, including undocumented, a potential path to adjustment of status.
Can VAWA Protect Me If I’m in Deportation Proceedings?
You still have protection against an abusive family member and could receive a change in your official immigration status if you are in deportation proceedings. Unlike a Self-Petition that is reviewed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), those in deportation proceedings file for what is commonly referred to as a VAWA Cancellation of Removal (Form EOIR-42B), which is reviewed and determined by an immigration judge. Immigration judges cannot consider a Self-Petition.
To qualify for Cancellation of Removal, you must demonstrate the following:
- You must have a pending immigration court case and no final removal order.
- You have been battered, or subjected to extreme cruelty, by your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent.
- You have been physically present in the U.S. for at least three years.
- You are a person of good moral character.
- You have not violated certain other sections of the immigration laws.
- Removing you would result in extreme hardship to you, your children, or your parent.
If you have a Self-Petition in process and it is approved by USCIS during your removal proceedings, the immigration judge can adjust your status (grant you a green card) in court. Likewise, if you were denied a VAWA Self-Petition and removal proceedings are then initiated, you can still apply for VAWA Cancellation of Removal.
If you would be denied legal entry to the U.S. for any reason (criminal history, unlawful presence, etc.), you will need to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility for VAWA. Unlike other waiver applicants, you will not have as many stipulations for approval, depending on the reason you are otherwise inadmissible.
Whether you apply through Self-Petition or Cancellation of Removal, you will need to provide evidence of why you qualify.
If you are a victim of other crimes or human trafficking, you may qualify for the U Visa (immigrant victim of certain crimes assisting in criminal investigation or prosecution of perpetrator) or the T Visa (survivors of sex or labor trafficking).
Experience Can Make the Difference
Our skilled attorney can help you apply for protection and rights under VAWA. Call Harrison Law Office, P.C. at (415) 212-6817 or contact us onlinefor a consultation.Emergency assistance is available to you through the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 [TDD].