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.
Noncitizens who may be eligible to self-petition under VAWA include:
A noncitizen self-petitioning for a green card under VAWA must show:
1) Family Relationship with Abuser
2) Evidence of Abuse.
3) Shared Residence
4) 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.
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.
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.
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).
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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