Obtaining a Green Card Through VAWA (Violence Against Women’s Act)

Mar 7, 2016 | Good Moral Character

As a Miami immigration lawyer,  VAWA (Violence Against Women’s Act) is one of the most pivotal pieces of legislation ever passed to protect the rights and status of women, including immigrant women. Below are some frequently asked questions about VAWA, and getting a green card through VAWA.

Are there any immigration benefits to VAWA (Violence Against Women’s Act)?
Yes. One of the immigration benefits to the law known as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is that spouses and children who experience abuse by their U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse or parent no longer have to rely on the abuser to help them obtain lawful status in the United States. If you have any questions in regard to immigration benefits to VAWA, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

What happened before VAWA was passed?
Before VAWA was passed in 1994, many people felt trapped in relationships with abusive family members who threatened to withhold filing the immigration petitions required to get the green card application process started and completed.

What do I need in order to qualify for immigration relief (i.e a green card) under VAWA?
In order to qualify for a green card under VAWA, you must prove that you meet all of the following requirements.

  • The abuser is (or was) a U.S. citizen (USC) or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). You may still file a petition under VAWA if the abuse occurred before the abuser became a citizen or green card holder. In addition, you can file a petition under VAWA even if the abuser loses his or her green card or citizenship. If you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.
  • You were abused during the marriage by the U.S. citizen or the legal permanent resident. The law requires the self-petitioner to show that he or she “has been battered or has been the subject of extreme cruelty” by the LPR or USC. You do not have to show both. USCIS has found that many things qualify under this standard including being physically hit, punched, slapped, kicked, or otherwise hurt. Sexual abuse may also qualify as “battery.” In addition, USCIS will consider emotional abuse, controlling behaviors, threats to harm or deport you, forcibly detaining you against your will, and other behaviors used to scare you. If you have any questions in regard to this, I recommend that you speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.
  • You are (or were) the spouse of an LPR or USC abuser, or the parent of a child who was abused by your LPR or USC spouse. There are several important points to keep in mind with this requirement. First, if the marriage ends because of abuse, you can still file a VAWA petition within two years of the end of the marriage. Similarly, if the abuser dies, you can file a VAWA petition within two years of the death. If the marriage ends after a petition is filed, then it has no effect on the VAWA petition. Finally, if you remarry prior to the approval of your VAWA petition, the petition will be denied. It is important that you not marry again if you are considering filing a VAWA petition. Again, if you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.
  •  Generally you must reside in the United States in order to file a petition under VAWA. However, you can file even if you are living abroad if the abuser is an employee of the U.S. government or armed services, or the abuse occurred in the United States. Again, if you have any questions in regard to the residency requirement, you should speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.
  • You entered the marriage in “good faith.” This basically means that you did not enter the marriage with your LPR or USC spouse solely in order to obtain a green card. If the marriage is fraudulent, you will not qualify for a green card through VAWA. The USCIS takes fraud very seriously. If you have any questions in regard to this, you should speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.
  • You must have lived with the LPR or USC abuser at some point. There is no length of time that you must have lived with the abuser and you do not have to currently be living with the abuser when you file for VAWA benefits.  If you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.
  • You must be a person of good moral character. In order to qualify for relief under VAWA , you have been a person of good moral character for at least the past three years. Some things that may prevent you from showing good moral character are: committing crimes, using drugs, illegal gambling, lying under oath, or persecuting or harming others.

If you would like more information about getting a green card through VAWA (Violence Against Women’s Act), please contact Miami immigration lawyer The Law Office of Tatiane M. Silva, P.A., Esq. at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at tmsilvalaw.com.