Part 1: Violence Against Women’s Act affects immigrants too

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2023 | Immigration

Family abuse and violence affects people at all levels of society, including immigrants. In the United States, the Violence Against Women’s Act of 1994 has safeguards in place to protect domestic abuse victims who are abused by United States citizens and lawful permanent resident petitioners.

Who does the Act protect?

VAWA contains many protections. However, for abuse victims in the United States immigration process, it protects you if the abuse is the person who filed for your family immigration status (i.e., the family member that already has U.S. citizen or lawful permanent status). If that person abuses you, VAWA offers protection.

What are the protections?

If the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is the abuser, VAWA allows you to file a separate VAWA self-petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, independent of their abuser. You do not need their consent, and they do not receive any notification that you elected this route. This gives you both independence and the ability to seek safety.

Is VAWA just for women?

No. While the Act uses the term women, it can be used by male or female spouses, children and even parents, depending on the circumstances.

Specifically, for spouses, if you are currently being abused or were abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident petitioner, you may file. You can include all of your children who are under 21, but they must be unmarried and cannot have already filed themselves. If your child was the victim, you can file on their behalf and include yourself.

If you are a parental abuse victim, you can also file a VAWA self-petition. If you have additional children under 21 who are unmarried and have not filed, you can include them on your application too.

Children can also file independently if they have been abused before they turn 21. You can file after 21, but before 25, as long as the reason for the delay was the abuse.

Of course, there is much more information available on VAWA self-petitions, and we will expand on this vital program in future Royal Oak, Michigan, blogs.