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Green Card through VAWA

The Violence Against Women Act or VAWA is not only for women or battered wives. This is one of the most popular misconceptions about who is qualified to seek justice under this legislation. Do you know that you don’t need to be a woman or a spouse to qualify? How would this act affect your green card application?

Let Andres Mejer, a New Jersey immigration attorney and author, explain to you how VAWA affects your application for a visa.

What is VAWA?

VAWA stands for the Violence Against Women Act. It was enacted into law by President Clinton in 1994 and remains valid today. With the creation of VAWA, battered spouses don’t need to stay in an abusive relationship just to get a green card. This means that if you are afraid for your life, there are safe places you can go to. If you call the police, they can help you find a shelter to stay and they will not report you to ICE. And if you are in immediate danger you can call 911 regardless of your immigration status.

Who benefits from VAWA?

Abused Spouses. Both males and females can use VAWA to get a green card. VAWA allows an abused spouse (male or female) to CONFIDENTIALLY apply for a visa and then a green card if their abuser is a US Citizen or green cardholder. 

Abused Parents. Battered or abused parents of U.S. citizen children may also qualify for VAWA, provided that the abuser is at least 21 years of age or older.

Children. VAWA is not only for battered spouses or parents as it also covers children. A male or female child can apply for a green card under VAWA. To be eligible, children must be under 21 years of age and unmarried. But if the abuse was the primary reason for the delay in filing, a child who is over 21 but under 25 can still file. 

Divorcees. You can also file for VAWA if you are divorced from your abuser, so long as you file within two years after the divorce decree has been granted. 

Am I qualified for VAWA?

You must meet ALL of the following conditions to be deemed eligible:

  • Your abuser should be (or was) a U.S. Citizen (USC)  or Legal Permanent Resident. You can file even if the abuse occurred before the abuser obtained citizenship or permanent residence. If your partner lost his U.S. citizenship status or permanent residency, then you must file your application within 2 years, and
  • You belong to any of these groups:
    • You are an abused spouse of a green card holder or USC. Only marriage-based VAWA requires proof that the marriage was entered in good faith, or
    • You are the child of an abuser who is under 21 years old and unmarried (talk to an immigration lawyer for exemptions to this rule), or
    • You are the parent of the abuser. Your child who abused you should be a U.S. citizen above 21 by the time you file for VAWA
  • You suffered extreme cruelty or battery.
  • You lived with your abuser (spouse, parent, or child). The abuse must have taken place while you lived with the abuser. There is no specific length of time that you must have lived with the abuser.
  • You are a person of good moral character. Public Charge does not apply to VAWA applications and you do not need to file an affidavit of financial support (form I-864) with your VAWA application. if you are under 14 years old you are presumed to have good moral character.

What kinds of ‘violence’ are covered?

VAWA not only covers physical violence. Any spouse, parent, or child who suffers any of the following from the hands of the abuser may file for VAWA. 

  • Battery. This refers to physical violence such as hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking, choking, or otherwise hurting you (or your minor children).
  • Threats. You could also be threatened with acts of violence – saying “I’ll kill you” is considered abuse in the US. Also, if your abuser threatens your children, family, friends, or even dogs this might be considered abuse. 
  • Social isolation or detention. Examples include taking your car keys, not letting you get a driver’s license so you can’t leave the house, not letting you take an English class or attend church, and limiting who you can or can’t see.
  • Psychological or sexual abuse. This includes exploitation such as rape, molestation, incest (if the victim is a minor), or forced prostitution.
  • Intimidation and Degradation. Examples are non-verbal warnings like clenched fists or a look, holding a weapon up in a threatening manner, or threatening to call ICE. 
  • Economic abuse. For instance, not giving you money or keeping your money.
  • Verbal abuse such as yelling or insulting.
  • e you money or may keep the money you earn (this is very common for male victims). They may keep you from looking for a job or do something so that you get fired from your job. A

How does VAWA affect green card applications?

VAWA can be applied for confidentially. This means that your abuser (spouse or child) does not need to know you are applying. You can use a different address in your application. All government agencies are told they legally cannot disclose your VAWA application.

  1. VAWA helps you get a permanent green card. VAWA provides you an opportunity to overcome issues in your past that typically make you ineligible for a Green Card. When you receive a green card through VAWA it is not conditional and instead valid for 10 years. 
  1. VAWA helps you become admissible to the U.S. Becoming admissible helps you apply for a green card. If you are not admissible because of something in your past you may be eligible for a waiver.
  2. VAWA allows inadmissible applicants to apply for a waiver. Waivers can help you fix issues like unlawful presence, permanent bar, an order of removal, fraud, crimes, and health reasons that are often grounds for being inadmissible. To be waived, you must show that you or a family member will suffer “extreme hardship” if the waiver is not granted. Usually, the hardship is only on your family member for VAWA immigration will also consider hardship to you.

Having a good immigration attorney can make the difference between any waiver, and your VAWA application, being approved. For the waivers, you must make a legal argument for them to be granted so it is important to have a legal expert who knows how to do that help you out.

How much does it cost to get a VAWA visa?

If you schedule a consultation with Andres Mejer Law, we’ll start with the three important qualification questions and create a plan for you before we accept you as a client and give you an accurate computation of fees.

This is because we only take on clients we can help. Charges are based on your answers to the following questions:

  • Do you qualify for a Green Card through a VAWA petition? 
  • Is there something in your past that can disqualify you?
  • Can we fix that problem?

Since we focus on these questions, two clients filing for VAWA might have very different costs. But in general, here’s how we arrive at the immigration fees. 

First of all, there is an application process fee. We typically charge between $6,000-$9,000 for the Green Card or the VAWA petition depending on the issues and the complexity. VAWA is form I-360 and sometimes we can also apply for your Green Card using form I-485 at the same time. 

You may incur additional charges if you are under any of the following circumstances:

  • need to order documents from immigration through the FOIA process (7 agencies), for prior border contacts, deportations, or prior petitions.
  • need to order copies from criminal courts and a background search from the FBI (Estimated cost: $1,000 per person for FOIA and criminal background search)
  • there is something that makes you ineligible we then have to fix it through a waiver, reopening a criminal case, reopening a removal order, or refiling for relief (Estimated cost: $3,000 to over $15,000)
  • applying for you and your kids. (Estimated cost: $500-$1,000 nominal fees to include your kids, but would depend if they are inside or outside of the U.S.
  • your child/children need consular processing or needs a waiver (additional fee)

If you are attending an interview with a USCIS official, our immigration attorneys usually charge $1,500 for attendance with you.  Bringing an attorney during your interview is recommended because if you are denied you will be placed into removal proceedings. 

Moreover, the petition itself costs around $3,000-$6,000 for form I-485 and associated forms and proofs. Each member of your family will need his or her own form. You can get discounted rates if you are filing for multiple family members.

But don’t let the fees hinder you from getting a green card. Andres Mejer Law offers payment plans such as, but not limited to: discounts for those paying in full, or for repeat customers. Call our office at  888-349-2665 to explore your payment options.

How long does it take to apply for VAWA visas?

In general, it takes between 1 to 3 years but may take longer if the abuser is or was a permanent resident holder because you will have to wait for a visa to become available as you would if the abuser was applying directly for you. 

How do VAWA visas differ from a U Visas?

U visas are not the same as VAWA. Although applicants for both categories are victims, the application process and scope are different. While abusers of VAWA petitioners should be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, this doesn’t apply to U Visa perpetrators. Moreover, the requirement to be related to the abuser does not apply to U Visa applicants. In addition, there are no annual limits to VAWA visas issued, as compared to U Visas limited at 10,000 per year.

We have helped clients apply for VAWA and their green cards. We would love to help you. Please call our office to see if you qualify for a NO-COST consultation.