The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a powerful tool for battered spouses, children, or parents of certain U.S. citizens (USCs) and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) to obtain their permanent residency without leaving the U.S. Do not be fooled by the name of the law! Males acting as a father, son, or husband, also qualify for this unique relief that takes applicants down the path to residency and eventually citizenship.
Generally, in order to obtain permanent residency, one has to be petitioned by a family member or employer. Under VAWA, battered spouses, children or parents can file their own petition for permanent residency. The abuser does not need to be involved with this process whatsoever, is not prejudiced by the application in any way, nor do they even need to know about the process at all.
Many believe that physical harm must have been done to qualify, however that is not true. The term battery is very broadly defined as any “willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” The offense can be charged even if the victim does not suffer an injury or any pain. Therefore, under immigration laws, battery includes emotional and mental abuse as well.
Furthermore, many people believe a police report is not required to be eligible for VAWA, which is not true. Generally, the requirements for a spouse are that you 1) have suffered “battery/extreme cruelty” by your USC or LPR spouse, 2) entered the marriage in good faith and not only for immigration benefits, 3) have resided with the spouse, and 4) have good moral character. Similarly, battered children or parents of USCs or LPRs can file for a VAWA if they have suffered “battery/extreme cruelty” by their U.S. citizen or resident parent or child, have resided with that parent or child, and have good moral character.
VAWA is a unique benefit because of the nature of the law: it was designed to protect victims of battery. As such, it can overcome certain obstacles such as an illegal entry, becoming a public charge, or even certain crimes. Furthermore, there is no application fee, and the applicant may even be eligible for a work permit while awaiting a response. Call an immigration attorney today if you have been subject to any emotional, mental, or physical abuse by your USC or LPR family member.