The Violence Against Women Act
Over time, specific pathways have been established that allow for the victims of crime to lawfully enter or remain in the US. One pathway was established by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which Congress passed the act in 1994. VAWA is a self-petition for those who have been victims of abuse at the hands of a spouse, who is either a US citizen or permanent resident. The self-petition for legal immigration is open to not only women whose spouses abused them, but also to those abused by a parent or adult child. The VAWA provides for an immigration route that does not require the involvement of the abuser.
The abuse must not have necessarily come from a spouse
VAWA grants eligibility for self-petition to those who were abused by a spouse, parent/stepparent, or adult child who was a US citizen or permanent resident. In the case of abuse by a spouse, the two individuals in question must have been married and lived together, whether they are now divorced or not. As such, couples who have not been married or in civil unions are not protected by VAWA. If the abuse was instigated by a parent or stepparent, the victim seeking self-petition must have been unmarried and under 21 years of age. Similarly, if a child abused their parent, the child must have been above the age of 21. In all cases, it must be shown that the victim was put through extreme cruelty by a US citizen or permanent resident. The abuse can include acts like sexual, emotional, physical, and verbal abuse, as well as other acts such as coercion.
Apply for Self-Petition
For those who qualify, they must file the Form I-360 Self-Petition. The form requires an extensive amount of documentation in order to prove that the relationship qualifies under VAWA, that any and all criteria related to the relationship have been met, and proof of the abuse (although a police report is not required). Based on the applicant’s relationship to the US citizen or permanent resident, an approved self-petition can result in either lawful permanent residency or an immigrant visa.