Living with an abuser is a terrifying existence. There are many reasons domestic violence victims stay with their abuser and, for immigrants, one of them is fear of being deported.
Bay Area immigrants who are experiencing abuse from a U.S. citizen spouse or lawful permanent resident might be eligible to obtain a green card through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Although the name of the act refers to women, VAWA is for any immigrant in an abusive situation from their spouse or parent and has been in the United States for at least three years.
Who is eligible for VAWA?
You can file for a self-petition under VAWA if you are an abused spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. You can also apply if you are a spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and your children are being abused.
Immigrants sometimes do not file a VAWA petition because they do not believe their abuse is serious enough, but abuse comes in many forms. Domestic abuse can mean physical, mental, emotional, economic or sexual abuse.
VAWA petition requirements
When you file for a VAWA petition, you will need to provide evidence of the abuse. Photographs, witness testimony and medical records are some examples of evidence that can establish abuse.
Additionally, you must provide evidence showing your abuser’s status as a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, your relationship with them and documents proving that you reside together.
A VAWA petition must also include an affidavit of good moral character and criminal background check is typically required.
Will my abuser know about my petition?
You may fear your abuser finding out about your VAWA immigrant visa, but the process is entirely confidential. An approved VAWA petition could make you a lawful permanent resident without your abuser knowing.
It is important to complete all petition requirements correctly and submit all necessary documentation or your petition could be denied. Having professional help through the process can increase your chance of an approved petition and allow you to finally break free from your abuser.