Find out more information on Self Petitions for Victims of Domestic Abuse.


One of the most difficult challenges one can face is living in a country with no valid immigration status.  Even under the most ideal of circumstances, merely living and working in the United States as an unauthorized immigrant requires navigating obstacles that others might not know exist.  For those who also are victims of domestic violence and abuse, the challenges can seem insurmountable.There is hope.

The Violence Against Women Act, commonly referred to as “VAWA,” is a federal law passed in 1994 that provides vast protections and benefits to victims of domestic violence.  One such benefit is available to unauthorized immigrants who have suffered domestic abuse.  That is, upon approval by the federal government, unauthorized immigrant victims of domestic violence are awarded legal permanent residency and receive a green card.

Self-Petition Process

Generally, those wishing to become legal permanent residents in the U.S. must have a sponsor to file a petition on their behalf.  This is done through a family-based process where a U.S. citizen spouse, parent, or child files on behalf of the immigrant or through an employment-based sponsorship process.

The VAWA process is different.  When domestic abuse is involved, U.S. immigration law removes the abuser from the sponsorship process.  In doing so, it allows victims of domestic violence to self-petition.  That is, these immigrants may file their own immigrant petition without any sponsorship at all.

A VAWA petition is filed using form I-360, not the usual I-130/I-140 forms filed by relative/employer petitioners.  Further, some of the evidence provided with the VAWA filing will differ from the items submitted in support of the traditional immigrant visa petitions.  That is discussed in greater detail below.

Qualifying Relative Requirement

As mentioned, VAWA allows abused spouses, certain parents, and certain children to obtain a green card without the cooperation or assistance of the abuser.  Not every victim of domestic abuse qualifies, however.  That is, the abuser must be a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident.

You may qualify for a green card under VAWA if you are an unauthorized immigrant and you meet one of the following criteria:

  • Your U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse abused you or your minor child;
  • Your parent is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and abused you AND you are under 21 years old; or
  • Your adult child is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and abused you.

Further, if you are applying as an abused spouse or spouse whose child was abused (the first criteria above), you must meet the following:

  • You are or were married to the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident abuser and lived together at some point;
  • If you are divorced from the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident abuser, you must show a connection between the abuse and the divorce and the marriage couldn’t have ended more than two years prior prior to your petition; and
  • Your marriage was entered into in good faith (i.e., not for immigration purposes).

Please note that the VAWA law is gender-neutral.  Both women and men may petition for legal permanent residency as victims of domestic abuse.

To summarize, if your abuser was not a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, you are not eligible to file a VAWA petition.  Similarly, if you were not married to your abuser and/or did not live with him or her, you may not file a VAWA petition.  Finally, if your marriage was entered into to gain immigration benefits or if you otherwise cannot prove that your marriage was based on good faith, you are not eligible for permanent residency under VAWA.  In these situations, you may be eligible for a U visa as a victim of a crime.   Please read our articles about that visa category.

Also, be sure to discuss your legal options with an experienced immigration attorney prior to filing any petition or application for immigration benefits.

Documenting VAWA Eligibility

As noted above, documenting VAWA eligibility is considerably different than a typical family- or employment-based petition.  When filing a VAWA petition, you should include the following supporting documentation:

Relationship to the Abuser:  You must show that you were married to the abuser.  Provide your marriage certificate.  Also, if you were previously married, you must provide evidence that those marriages have ended.  Death certificates and divorce decrees for previous spouses are sufficient.  Provide any translations that are necessary.

Legal Status of the Abuser:  You must show that the abuser is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.  For this, a copy of a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, certificate of naturalization, or green card will work.  If the abuser is a legal permanent resident or has been through the U.S. immigration process, providing his or her alien registration number might be sufficient.  If none of these items are available, a declaration from someone familiar with the abuser’s status might work.

Proof of Residence with Abuser:  To show that you lived with the abuser, provide lease agreements, mortgage documents, utility bills, children’s school records, declarations from acquaintances, etc.

Good Faith Marriage:  To show that your marriage was entered into in good faith, provide birth certificates for children, family photographs, joint banking information, statements from family and friends, notes between the abuser and the petitioner, etc.

Abuse:  To document the abuse suffered, you should provide restraining orders, photographs of abuse, police reports, statements from witnesses, medical records, 9-11 transcripts, counseling records, shelter records, letters/notes/voicemails from the abuser, etc.

Good Moral Character:  As a VAWA petitioner, you must provide proof that you are a person of good moral character.  This should include criminal records, documents of community involvement, church records, statements from family and friends, proof of rehabilitation if you have had issues with drugs or alcohol, etc.

Remember:  As a VAWA petitioner, your safety should be your highest concern.  If possible, when gathering items for your VAWA petition, use the mailing address of an attorney or victim’s advocate.  If your home is not a safe space, do not have documents, correspondence, or other items sent there.

Again, for victims of domestic violence who are also struggling with being unauthorized immigrants, the world can seem grim.  If you are one of the thousands of battered spouses caught in this situation, please know that help is available.  Things can get better.  An experienced New Jersey immigration lawyer is available at Andres Mejer Law to help you navigate these difficult matters.

Share This Post!

Related Posts

Call Us Today!


New Jersey Immigration Attorney

Need help?

Got questions?

New Jersey Immigration Attorney

We're here 24/7.
Call Now!



Eatontown, NJ


Address

286 RT 35
Unit D
Eatontown, NJ 07724

Map/Directions

Lakewood, NJ


Address

212 2nd Street
Suite 104
Lakewood, NJ 08701

Map/Directions

Newark, NJ


Address

50 Park Place
Suite #1101
Newark, NJ 07102

Map/Directions

Edison, NJ


Address

1929 NJ-27
Edison, NJ 08817

Map/Directions
Address

1065 US-22 Suite 2B
Bridgewater Township, NJ 08807

Map/Directions

Freehold, NJ


Address

36 W Main St, Suite 302,
Freehold, NJ 07728

Map/Directions

Copyright 2021 Provencher and Flatt, LLP - All Rights Reserved. Powered by Advantage Attorney Marketing & Cloud Solutions

Immigration Attorney

Ask an Immigration Attorney

Ask a question or tell us about your situation, we are happy to help!

Arrested in New Jersey

Request Your Free Copy

Solicite su copia gratuita

Immigration Book

Request Your Free Copy

Solicite su copia gratuita

Immigration Attorney

Request Your Free Copy

Solicite su copia gratuita

Find Out Immediately If You Qualify for Legal Status

Subheading

Your privacy is important to us. We will keep the information you provide strictly confidential. We only use your information to determine if you may be eligible for immigration benefits in the United States. The information we provide should not be construed as legal advice and submission of this form does not create an attorney/client relationship.

Ingrese la siguiente información para aceptar los términos y condiciones.

Enter the following information to accept the terms and conditions.

Start Here!

Información Personal / Personal Information

Subheading

Idioma Preferido*

Preferred Language

Fecha Nacimiento*

Date of Birth

Pais de Nacimiento*

Country of Birth

Entradas a las EEUU / Entries into the US

Subheading

Fecha Entrada*

Date of Entry

Entrada Legal*

Did you enter legally?

Background

Subheading

¿Tiene usted padres, conyuge o hijos mayores de 21 anos,Que ha estado o esta en las fuerzas armadas Americanas?*

Do you have a parent, spouse, or child over 21 who is or was in the US military?

¿Tiene usted padres,conyuge o hijos mayores de 21 anos, ciudadanos Americanos o residentes permanentes?*

Do you have a parent, spouse, or child over 21 who is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident?

¿Ha tenido usted, sus padres o sus abuelos un estado legal en los EEUU?*

Did you, your parents, or your grandparents ever have legal status in the U.S.?

¿Esta considerando matrimonio con us ciudadano Americano o residente permanente? ( mismo sexo incluido)*

Are you considering marriage to a US citizen or green card holder (same-sex marriage included)?

Background

Subheading

¿Alguien ha peticionado a su favor por motivos de inmigración?*

Has anyone ever filed an immigration petition for you before?

¿Ha sido usted deportado o esta usted en procedimiento de deportación ahora?*

Have you ever been deported or are you in deportation proceedings now?

Ha sido abusado por sus padres, conyuge o hijo mayor de edad?*

Has your parent, spouse, or adult child been abusive to you?

¿Si es asi, fue previo a Abril 30 del 2001?*

If so, was it before April 30, 2001?

Background

Subheading

¿Fue usted, conyuge, sus padres, pareja o sus hijos victimas de de un crimen violento en los EEUU?*

Were you, your parents, siblings, spouse, partner, or children a victim of a violent crime in the US?

¿Es usted menor de 21 años y soltero?*

Are you under 21 and not married?

¿Tiene usted un padre, conyuge o hijo menor de 15 anos con requerimientos especiales médicos (dificultades de estudio, alergias severas, asma u otra condición medica severa)?*

Do you have a parent, spouse, or child under 15 with medical or special needs (learning disability, severe allergies or asthma, or other serious medical condition)?

¿Fue usted maltratado, abusado o abandonado por sus padres?*

Did your parents mistreat, abuse, or abandon you?

Background

Subheading

¿Tenia usted 30 anos o menos en Junio, 15, 2012?*

Were you 30 years or under on June 15, 2012?

¿Tenía usted 15 años o menos en su primera entrada en los EEUU?*

Were you 15 years old or younger on your first entry into the US?

Click below now to see if you qualify!

¡Haga clic abajo ahora para ver si califica!

Free Deportation Risk Assessment

Where you ever caught at by immigration and returned to your country? (¿Dónde alguna vez te pilló inmigrando y regresaste a tu país?)*

Have you ever been arrested for any reason? (¿Alguna vez te han arrestado por alguna razón?)*

How many times have been arrested? (¿Cuántas veces han sido arrestados?)*

Were you arrested for any of the following reasons? (Check all that apply) (¿Te arrestaron por alguna de las siguientes razones?)

Have you ever filed for an immigration benefit and been denied? (¿Alguna vez ha presentado un beneficio de inmigración y se le ha negado?)*

Have you entered the US illegally more than once after 1997? (¿Ha entrado ilegalmente en los Estados Unidos más de una vez después de 1997?)*

Do you owe back child support? (¿Debes manutención infantil?)*

New Jersey Immigration Attorney

Get Instant Access

Enter your name and email address below to get instant access.

New Jersey Immigration Attorney


¡Obtenga acceso instantáneo ahora!

Ingrese su nombre y dirección de correo electrónico a continuación