Has your spouse, parent or child said that you could be deported for reporting family violence? That may not be true.
When your immigration status depends on another person, you can be vulnerable to spousal or domestic violence. Abusers often claim they have impunity. They say no one will help you. If you try to leave, they say they will cancel your visa. You could lose your job and be deported, they say.
The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, makes it possible for both female and male survivors of family violence to apply for immigrant visas without the help — or even the knowledge — of their abusers.
You may be able to stay in the U.S. without needing anything from the spouse, child or parent who is abusing you. An approved VAWA petition, or Form I-360, allows you to seek authorization to work in the United States. In time, you can apply for lawful permanent residence (a “green card”).
Who can apply for VAWA status?
In order to qualify for VAWA protection, you must be the immigrant spouse or child of an abuser who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or the parent of a U.S. citizen child who has abused you. You must reside or have recently resided with the abuser. You must be of good moral character. You have to show that you have experienced either physical battery or extreme cruelty by your abuser.
A few important facts:
- You do not have to be a woman to petition for VAWA protection.
- The abuser can be your spouse, your child or your parent, if you are under 21 (or in some cases, 25).
- You do not have to prove physical abuse to qualify for VAWA protection.
- You may still qualify if your marriage has ended.
- You may still qualify for VAWA protection if your child, not you, is the victim of the abuse.
- In some cases, you can still apply if you are abroad.
- You may qualify for VAWA protection if you are no longer in legal immigration status. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may place you in deferred action, allowing you to remain in the U.S.
- You can apply for public benefits for domestic violence survivors once a preliminary determination has been made.
Applying for VAWA status is called a ‘self-petition’
In order to apply for VAWA, you file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant with the Vermont Service Center (VSC), which handles these petitions. Even if your immigration status is derived from your abuser, your abuser will not be notified that you have applied.
Once your Form I-360 has been approved, you may apply for a green card (lawful permanent residence in the U.S.) for yourself and any children you list on the form.
An approved Form I-360 generally allows you to work in the U.S. Before you begin working, you will need to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with the VSC. The children you listed on Form I-360 can also petition for the right to work in the United States.
VAWA can allow you to leave your abuser without fear of deportation
If you are an immigrant who is experiencing domestic violence, call Yew Immigration Law Group. We can help you file your VAWA petition, work authorization application and green card application. In these cases, proving your claim is essential. We will work closely with you to submit enough evidence to prove your claim. Talk to us about affordable options today.