Typically, the family immigration process requires U.S. citizens and permanent residents to file applications for non-U.S. national family members. However, by threatening to suspend or withdraw a petition, this process can be exploited to control, coerce, and intimidate non-citizens.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed and revised by the United States Congress in 1994. This law allowed noncitizens who had been abused by US citizens or permanent residents to file separate petitions for immigration classification without the offender’s cooperation. Victims are thus given the opportunity to seek protection and independence from their perpetrators.
Spouses and children of US citizens and permanent residents, as well as parents of US citizens over the age of 21, can petition USCIS for separate immigration classification. They are known as independent VAWA petitioners, and if their applications are approved, they will be granted a green card and permanent residence. If the approved applicant is located outside of the United States, this process can be completed through consular processing, or by filing a status change application if the authorized applicant resides in the United States.
Individuals that are qualified to petition for VAWA include:
- Spouses: If you are or were the spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who was subjected to violence, you may make a claim on their behalf. You can also submit a claim as a spouse who has been violated if your child has been abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You can also add unmarried children under the age of 21 who have not filed an application on their behalf in your petition.
- Parents: If you are the parent of a US citizen whose child has abused them, you can apply.
- Minor: You can submit the application on your own behalf if you are an unmarried minor under the age of 21 who has suffered abuse at the hands of a US citizen or US-based parent. Your petition may also include your children. If you apply as a kid after the age of 21, but before the age of 25, you can show that ill-treatment was the primary reason for the delay in submitting.
You must meet the following qualifications to be qualified for an independent VAWA petition:
- You are the spouse, prospective spouse, or past spouse of a US citizen or permanent resident and can attest to one of the following:
Married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; Your marriage with the offender was lawfully terminated within the previous two years by death (for U.S. citizens only) or divorce (for grounds connected to ill-treatment);
Due to domestic abuse, your spouse lost or renounced citizenship or permanent resident status within the two years preceding your application;
You thought you were legally married to your U.S. citizen or permanent resident husband, but the marriage was invalid because of your rapist spouse’s dualism.
You are the child of a US citizen or permanent resident living in the US who has subjected you to violence; you are the parent of a US citizen who has committed violence; and you are 21 years old or older.
- A US citizen or a legal relative who is permanently residing in the US beat you or subjected you to serious cruelty during the relevant relationship. If you apply as a spouse, you may be qualified to participate if your U.S. citizen or legal spouse residing in the United States has subjected your kid to abuse or cruelty.
- You live with or have lived with a U.S. citizen or a legal relative who is a permanent resident of the United States and has exposed you to violence.
When filing your own I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, you must additionally show that you married in good faith and not with the goal of misleading immigration regulations.
In some cases, even if your violent relative has lost or renounced U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status, or if your abusive relative has died, you may still be able to file a VAWA self-petition.
The VAWA Act is crucial in safeguarding victims of violence by allowing them to file petitions for immigration classification on their own and giving them the option to be independent and safe from rapists. It provides critical procedures to defend the rights and interests of persons subjected to abuse and coercion, as well as promote justice and victim referral.