In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The Act created the VAWA Self-Petition to provide a legal remedy to immigrant victims for obtaining immigration status independently of their abusers. The self-petition allows victims of abuse who are otherwise eligible for family-based immigration to adjust status without relying on the abuser for the petition. Under VAWA, certain abused spouses, children, and parents can self-petition for permanent residency in the U.S.
In order for an applicant to file a VAWA Self-Petition, he or she must prove:
- That a qualifying relationship with the abuser exists/existed;
- That the abuser is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
- Good faith marriage (where the qualifying relationship is that of a spouse);
- Battery or extreme cruelty;
- Residence with the abuser; and,
- Good moral character.
If the abuser is not a legal permanent resident or U.S. citizen, or the victim is not legally married, the victim may be eligible for a U visa.
U visa permits the holder to stay in the U.S. and obtain work authorization for up to four years. Applicants for U nonimmigrant status can also petition for certain family members. A person with U visa status can usually apply for permanent residency after having a valid U nonimmigrant status for three years. The U visa petition can be accompanied by an application that waives unlawful entry and other immigration violations.
We have successfully represented many VAWA and U visa applicants. Contact Becker & Lee LLP if you or a family member has been the victim of a crime.