Immigrants (male or female) who apply for protection through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) are usually eligible for public benefits like welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid. However, your eligibility depends on where you are in the process of applying for VAWA protection.

To be eligible for these benefits and others, you must be considered a “qualified alien.” According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), people who have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by their spouses, parents or family members and apply for VAWA protection will usually meet the definition of qualified alien.

Even though you may meet the criteria, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review must each make findings about your immigration status and some additional matters. Once they have made these findings, you will receive a letter called a “Notice of Prima Facie Determination.”

The prima facie determination letter should come relatively soon after you file Form I-360, “Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.” Along with your I-360, you will have submitted evidence that you or your children have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in the United States by your spouse or someone else in your household. Assuming it is sufficient, this is the evidence that will allow the USCIS and Executive Office to make their findings.

The prima facie determination letter does not mean you have been granted VAWA protection. It means that the evidence you have presented appears, at face value, to be sufficient. Your VAWA case will continue to a final determination.

In the meantime, however, the prima facie determination letter designates you as a “qualified alien.” This is enough to allow you to apply for public benefits, if you need them. Unlike many other immigrants, VAWA petitioners are not considered a “public charge” even if they accept public benefits.

Examples of benefits you might receive

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides funding to a wide variety of public services, including battered women’s shelters. Many of these services are available to all immigrants, not just VAWA petitioners. Some have income limits or other eligibility criteria, which would still apply.

Assuming you otherwise qualify, your status as a qualified alien means you can apply for many public benefit programs, including:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, welfare)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, food stamps)
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in California
  • Medicare
  • Medi-Cal
  • Covered California insurance
  • HUD Public and Assisted Housing programs
  • Federal student aid, grants and loans

If you are interested in applying for VAWA protection, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience and our services are completely confidential.