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Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

When an abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent is unwilling to file for permanent residency on behalf of a spouse or children, the spouse or children may be able to self-petition.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) protects the foreign victim’s rights against domestic violence, abuse, or assault and battery by allowing him or her to self-sponsor for permanent residency. A battered spouse may self-petition and also petition on behalf of his or her abused children. Abused children under 21 may also self-petition.

Self-petitioning spouse
To qualify, the self-petitioning spouse must establish the following facts:

  • Legal marriage to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR)
  • Good moral character
  • Abuse which took place in the United States (unless married to a U.S. government employee or member of the U.S. military)
  • Extreme cruelty to the U.S. citizen or LPR’s spouse or child during the marriage
  • Good faith marriage, which was not for immigration benefits

Self-petitioning child

To qualify under VAWA, a child must establish:

  • He or she is a child as defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
  • Other relevant evidence that proves the relationship with the parent
  • Abuse or extreme cruelty

VAWA defenses
Aliens involved in deportation and removal proceedings may have VAWA defenses available, even if a previous removal order has been issued in immigration court.

Aliens who entered illegally may be able to self-petition under VAWA for permanent residency if married to a U.S. citizen.

Violent crime victims who help authorities take their assailants into custody may qualify for T or U visas.

Get the help you need
Abusive spouses often use the threat of deportation to prevent a child or spouse from seeking help. If you or someone close to you is a domestic violence victim, you can get information about shelters, healthcare and other assistance through the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 [TDD].
Lawyers at the Frager Law Firm advise VAWA victims of their legal rights. Contact us 24 hours a day at 901-763-3180 or during regular business hours at one of our offices.