The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that was first enacted in 1994 and has been reauthorized and expanded since then. It is designed to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other qualifying crimes, regardless of gender, and provides avenues for certain immigrant victims to obtain legal immigration status independently of their abusers.
Purpose of VAWA: The primary purpose of VAWA in the context of immigration is to offer protection and assistance to immigrant victims who have suffered abuse at the hands of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or adult child. It also applies to certain immigrant victims who are married to non-immigrants or have had abusive non-immigrant parents.
Eligibility Criteria: To qualify for immigration benefits under VAWA, the applicant must meet specific eligibility criteria, including:
a. Relationship with the Abuser: The applicant must have a qualifying familial relationship with the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. This includes being a spouse, child, or parent.
b. Evidence of Abuse: The applicant must provide credible evidence to demonstrate that they have been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by the abuser. This evidence can include police reports, medical records, affidavits from witnesses, photographs, or any other relevant documentation.
c. Good Moral Character: The applicant must show good moral character, except in cases where the abuse itself has contributed to certain criminal activities.
Self-Petitioning Process: One of the unique features of VAWA is that it allows the victim to self-petition for immigration benefits without relying on the abuser to sponsor their application. This is crucial, as many victims might fear deportation or retaliation if they seek help from their abusive family member.
Confidentiality Provisions: VAWA includes provisions to protect the confidentiality of the victim's information during the application process. This is to ensure the safety of the victim and prevent any potential retaliation from the abuser.
Immigration Benefits: Upon approval of the VAWA self-petition, the victim may be eligible for certain immigration benefits, such as:
a. Lawful Permanent Residency (Green Card): If the self-petition is approved, the applicant may be granted lawful permanent residency, allowing them to live and work permanently in the United States.
b. Work Authorization: While the VAWA self-petition is pending, the victim may be eligible for a work permit to support themselves financially.
Derivative Benefits: VAWA also extends protection to certain qualifying family members of the victim, known as derivative beneficiaries. This means that eligible children of the victim may also be granted immigration benefits under VAWA, even if they are not direct victims of the abuse.
It's important to note that VAWA is a complex legal process, and applicants are encouraged to seek assistance from qualified immigration attorneys. The process aims to empower victims to break free from abusive situations and start anew in a safe and secure environment in the United States. Contact The Trevino Law Firm, PLLC today by filling out the online form or calling us at 210.227.3200 to schedule a consultation.