Disclaimer: The information below is a basic explanation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and is not legal advice.  Each immigration case is different based on a person’s individual immigration, family, and criminal history.

VAWA stands for Violence Against Women Act. Under VAWA, a woman (or man) who is married to an abusive U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse can obtain Deferred Action or Permanent Residency (a “Green Card”) without any help from their abusive spouse. Additionally, abused children may also be able to apply for these same benefits either as a derivative of their petitioning parent, or by their own petition.

All applications are confidential and the abusive U.S. Citizen or Resident spouse plays no role in the self-petitioning process.  Under VAWA, all information provided by a self-petitioner to the government in an application is confidential. USCIS is forbidden to disclose any information to the abusive spouse or parent.

In order to qualify for VAWA, the Applicant must show that they are: (1) the bona fide (“real”) spouse/child of a U.S. Citizen or Resident; (2) that the Applicant suffered extreme mental or physical cruelty at the hands of the abuser; and (3) that the Applicant is a person of good moral character.  If the Applicant is the spouse of an abusive U.S. Citizen or Resident, the Applicant must file an application within two (2) years of being divorced from the abusive spouse and cannot remarry until after their application is approved.

If an abusive spouse/parent is a U.S. Citizen, the abused family member(s) may be able apply at the same time for adjustment of status (a green card). If the abusive spouse/parent is a green card holder, the abused family member may be able to apply for adjustment of status later, when a priority date is current. If a VAWA self-petition is approved, you may stay in the U.S. with Deferred Action Status (which must be renewed), or until your adjustment of status application is approved (regardless of how you entered the US and whether your status has expired).

Approximately two weeks after the VAWA petition is filed, USCIS will send the self-petitioner an I-797 Receipt Notice.  If the petition appears to satisfy all of the eligibility requirements, the self-petitioner will also receive a notice of “Establishment of Prima Facie” case. Note, the prima facie notice is not an approval, but may grant the self-petitioner the right to receive certain public benefits depending on the state that he/she lives in.  If USCIS requires additional information, the self-petitioner will receive a “Request for Evidence” which must be responded to with the required information by the specified deadline, or else the petition may be denied.

For advice specific to your case, please call Dady & Hoffmann LLC at (815) 394-1359 to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.