Green Card for Abused Men Through VAWA

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Green Card for Abused Men Through VAWA

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The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal law that provides a pathway for certain abused family members of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) to apply for a green card on their own, without needing to rely on the participation of their abusive family member. Although the title of this law specifically references women, any immigrant may benefit from this law, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Men, women, children, and sometimes even parents can all benefit from VAWA in certain circumstances.

Who Qualifies?

Noncitizens who may be eligible to self-petition under VAWA include:

  • Abused spouses of U.S. citizens and LPRs;
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens and LPRs whose child has been abused by the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse;
  • Abused children of U.S. citizens and LPRs; or
  • Abused parents of U.S. citizens

What are the Basic Requirements?

A noncitizen self-petitioning for a green card under VAWA must show:

1) Family Relationship with Abuser

  • Applicants applying as an abused spouse need to prove they are married, (or were married within the last two years) to a U.S. citizen or LPR. In addition, applicants need to prove it was a “good faith marriage” meaning the marriage was not entered into just for immigration purposes.
  • Applicants applying as an abused child or parent need to prove the family relationship with the abuser.

2) Evidence of Abuse.

  • USCIS discusses abuse in the VAWA context as “battery or extreme cruelty.” Some examples of what this might include are:
    • Physical abuse, like hitting, shoving, kicking, or slapping;
    • Threatening violence or physical abuse;
    • Forcing the noncitizen to engage in sexual activities;
    • Threatening to call the police and/or report the noncitizen to immigration authorities;
    • Controlling the noncitizen and placing limits on who they can see, what they can do, etc.

3) Shared Residence

  • Applicants must prove that they resided with the abuser at some point.

4) Good Moral Character

  • Applicants need to demonstrate that they are a person of “good moral character.”

USCIS explains that applicants can submit “any credible relevant evidence of your eligibility” for a self-petition under VAWA. There are many different types of evidence that can be submitted to prove the necessary requirements.

How Do I Apply?

In addition to evidence proving all of the eligibility requirements for a self-petition, applicants submit several forms to USCIS. Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant is the form used for the “self-petition” under VAWA. In addition, applicants may submit other forms with the self-petition, including the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status.

How Long Does it Take?

Processing times with USCIS change frequently. Currently, USCIS estimates that most applicants filing a self-petition can expect to receive an answer within 35 months. It may be possible to expedite processing of a petition in certain circumstances.

Other Immigration Options

In some cases, there may be other immigration options apart from a VAWA self-petition that might be a better option. This depends heavily on the particular circumstances of the case, but some noncitizens may benefit from a U-visa (victims of crime) or a T-visa (victims of trafficking).

Next Steps

If a noncitizen thinks they might be eligible to file a self-petition under VAWA, they should speak with a reputable immigration attorney to discuss the case. Every case is unique, and it is important to review all the details to determine eligibility under VAWA.

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