VAWA as a Savior for Immigrant Women

With around 19 million immigrant women in the United States, half of the entire foreign-born population in the US is female. Unfortunately, most of the immigrant women are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, especially those who are unauthorized. Immigrant women are most likely to be abused while entering the U.S., at the time of working and within their homes. For these reasons, the federal law addresses several forms of immigrant women protection.

What is self-petition under VAWA?

Under the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA,  immigrant women, victims of child abuse, domestic violence or elder abuse may self-petition for permanent resident status. For this, the victim does not need any cooperation from their abusive parent, spouse or adult child. It allows the victims to file self-petition with full confidentiality. Self-petition helps the immigrants to attain lawful permanent resident status. It allows the victims to stay away from their abusers once the lawful permanent resident status has been received. With approved VAWA self-petition, the applicant receives work authorization and deferred action besides providing permanent residential status. When an individual opts for permanent resident status with self-petition, she becomes subject to the system of family preference. This allows children and spouses of U.S. citizens to apply immediately and receive a green card as the immediate relative. There is no limit to the number of self-petitions under VAWA that can be filed in a year.

Eligibility for self-petition under VAWA:

VAWA approves self petitions for all eligible immigrant women. There are certain eligibility criteria that need to be followed.

  • Self-petitions are available to spouses and former spouses of the abusive U.S. citizens and those with permanent resident status. In the case of divorced spouses, they can opt for self-petition if the reason behind the divorce was marital abuse. For that, the application for self-petition needs to be filed within a period of two years after the divorce.
  • Children of abusive lawful permanent residents and abusive U.S. citizens can file for self-petition. The self-petition needs to be filed before the age of 25 years in the case of child abuse.
  • Spouses who are not U.S. citizens and whose children are abused by another U.S. citizen can file for self-petition.

Besides providing proof of the abuse, the self-petitioner also needs to prove:

  • The relationship with the abuser.
  • That the marriage is of good faith if the abuser is a step-parent or spouse.
  • The immigration status of the parent, child or citizen.
  • Residential proof of the abusive family member.
  • Evidence that the self-petitioner is a good human being with a good moral character .
  • The relationship between parent and children, if the applicant is an immigrant who is non-abusive, and the relationship status with the spouse who perpetrated the abuse.

VAWA cancellation of removal:

VAWA cancellation of removal, also known as suspension of deportation, is a form of relief which has been designed to keep the victims of the abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident parents or spouses from being deported from the country. It is a relief option for non-citizen victims. They can seek it in immigration court after they have been placed in removal proceedings. With successful cancellation of removal, the victim can attain permanent resident status and their children can also be released into the U.S. This also allows them to attain a green card.

In order to qualify for VAWA cancellation of removal, the victim needs to prove:

  • Physical presence in the US for at least three consecutive years.
  • She has been subject to extreme cruelty and abuse by a US citizen.
  • Removal would lead to extreme problems.
  • Good moral character.

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