Understanding VAWA: Relief for Immigrants Facing Abuse

Astounding numbers of people experience abuse — both emotional and physical — every day. Abuse can make anyone feel trapped and afraid, but this is especially true for immigrants who are living in the United States illegally. Many immigrants who find themselves in abusive situations feel that they cannot seek help because any authorities they might turn to would realize they don’t have legal status, and they could be deported, often to a country where they expect to endure further abuse, made even worse by conditions of poverty.

Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has provided funds and support to initiatives with the aim of putting an end to domestic violence. It has come to protect all people in the United States, not just women, from any type of abuse. In 2013, an update to VAWA was added, providing specific protection to immigrants who experience domestic violence. 

If you have experienced domestic violence in the past or are still experiencing it, you can file a petition for legal permanent residency (a green card) under VAWA.

Can I file a VAWA petition if anyone abused me?

No. It is specifically for domestic violence, so you only qualify if you were abused by your spouse, parent, or child. 

If your parent was the one who abused you, you must file while you are still under 21 and unmarried. As long as you are under 25, you might still be able to file if you can prove that the reason you did not file sooner was abuse-related. 

If your child abuse you, your child must be twenty-one (21) years old for you to be able to file a VAWA self-petition.

You are also eligible if you are married to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and he or she abused your child, even if they did not abuse you directly.

Unfortunately, you do not qualify if you were abused by a significant other you are not married to, even if you live or have lived together.

Will my abuser know that I filed a petition?

No. They will not be informed. This allows you to file the petition without fear of retaliation.

How do I go about filing a VAWA petition?

If you think you qualify and want to get started on a petition, you need to partner with an experienced immigration attorney. The Serving Immigrants team is eager to help you file your case correctly and ensure that you have the best possible chance at avoiding deportation. To get started, give us a call at (305) 924-1133.

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Serving Immigrants

As an immigrant and a refugee herself, attorney Magdalena Cuprys understands how important, terrifying, and exciting immigrating to America can be. She understands how important it is to have one’s legal status in order to achieve the American dream.

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