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10 Commonly Asked Questions in VAWA (I-360) Cases

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 provides funding for programs to support domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. Some of the programs funded by this act specifically provide support for non-citizen survivors.

 An immigrant mother and child smiling into the ca

The immigrant spouse, children, or parents of an abuser sometimes feel trapped because their legal immigration status is tied to the abusive individual. VAWA offers an alternative to allow these immigrants to leave an abusive home safely. But how does it work?

What is a VAWA (I-360) Case?

There are different types of green cards available to immigrants. Still, one of the most common green cards relies on using a qualified family relationship (spouse, child, or parent) of an existing citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR). If this relationship becomes abusive, there may be a possibility for a VAWA case.

A VAWA case involves a Form I-360 referred to as a 'Self-Petition.' A VAWA petition allows an immigrant, who was or did have a qualifying relationship with a USC or LPR, to apply for legal status for his or her own self, without requiring the help of the USC or LPR. In other words, the self-petitioner who has been abused will not need the abusive USC or LPR to sign any forms or file for them.

A self-petition is the process of legally obtaining a green card without the sponsorship of an abusive citizen or LPR family member.

What Forms Do I Need?

Form I-360, the Self-Petition for Battered Spouse/Child, is the form that will be required for a VAWA (I-360) case. However, if you are also eligible to file for an adjustment of status, a few more forms will be necessary and may or may not include the following:

  • I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status

  • G-325A, Biographic Information

  • I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record

  • I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

Please be sure to consult with an immigration lawyer to ensure that you are not wasting your time or funds and risk filing the incorrect forms for your particular case.

Can a Man File a VAWA Petition?

Yes, VAWA petitions are available for any spouse, child, or parent victim. Although the Violence Against Women Act provides the funds, the United States government recognizes that men and women may be victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

 A sad child leaning over the back of a chair

Do I Have to Remain Married to an Abusive Partner Until My Form I-360 is Approved?

You are in no way required to remain married to an abusive partner for the sake of Form I-360 approval. If you or your spouse has already filed for, or are considering filing for divorce, it is recommended that you contact your immigration lawyer right away to discuss the matter.

Please note that any legal change always has the risk of making an impact on your case, but absent unusual circumstances, you have up to 2 years from the date of divorce to file for a VAWA Self-Petition if you were subjected to abuse or extreme cruelty by your USC or LPR spouse.

In other words, you may file a VAWA Self-Petition, assuming you qualify at any of the following points in time:

  • While still married to your abusive USC or LPR spouse

  • At any point even if you and your spouse are in the divorce process

  • At any point in time for up to 2 years after the date of your divorce judgment

If you wait more than 2 years after the date your divorce judgment is entered, then you will forfeit the right to be able to seek a green card through the VAWA process.

Please also note that the National Domestic Violence Hotline also provides resources to help battered and abused victims, including self-petitioning information. Please feel free to call the hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-78703224 [TDD] for further information.

Can a Divorced Spouse Seek Relief By Filing a Form I-360?

You can file Form I-360 for up to two years from the date of termination of your marriage (in other words, from the date your divorce judgment was entered) as long as your separation resulted from abuse or battery. The cause of separation must be documented, and filing individuals must not remarry before their I-360 is approved.

Do I Qualify for VAWA if I Was Not Physically Abused?

Yes, the definitions of abuse under VAWA are broad and encompass many different types of abuse. Battery or physical violence- like punching, pushing, or hitting- is often the easiest to prove. But the US Government recognizes that those victims aren't the only ones suffering from domestic abuse. You may be eligible if you are the victim of:

  • Threatening Behavior

  • Intimidation

  • Degradation

  • Social Isolation

  • Economic Abuse (withholding funds needed for basic living expenses)

  • Sexual Abuse or Rape

  • Physical Abuse

  • Immigration Control Abuse

  • Harassment

Please be sure to contact us to discuss the abuse that you have previously or are currently suffering from so that an attorney can help you in determining if you may qualify for VAWA or not.

 A VAWA case interview.

Will I Have to Go to an Interview for My VAWA Case?

After your I-360 VAWA Petition is approved, assuming you are also eligible to adjust your status and have filed a Form I-485 with all other required evidence and forms, then next you will be called to appear for an Interview for your green card. There are many variables in the interview process, including:

  • The temperament of the USCIS officer conducting the interview

  • The strength of your application and documentation

  • How you present yourself

In all cases, you are likely to have the best possible outcome with the help of an immigration attorney. Immigration lawyers know the process inside and out. They can help ensure that your case is well prepared and that you are ready to appear at your Interview. Having a lawyer present will also help ensure that USCIS treats you fairly during the interview.

Can I File a VAWA Petition if My Abuser Has a Temporary Visa or No Legal Status?

If your spouse/abuser is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States, you may not file for a VAWA petition. However, other programs may be able to help. For example, a U Visa may allow victims of certain crimes like rape or sexual abuse to stay in the country.

Each immigration situation is unique, and US Immigration Laws are continually changed and ever-evolving. Who does and does not qualify for VAWA, or any immigration kind of case for that matter, is quite clear by law, but yet can seem very confusing if you are not well versed in the law.

It is important to ensure that you do qualify before you file such an application so you do not place yourself at risk. Furthermore, it is also very important to always tell the truth for an immigration application. Submitting false information to the government on your VAWA Application could lead to penalties of imprisonment, deportation, and fines.

Can My VAWA Petition Be Denied?

Yes, even if you believe you meet the basic requirements to self-petition under VAWA, your petition may still be denied due to various reasons. Some common reasons for denial simply include clerical errors, like missing information on forms or missed deadlines, while other reasons may have more to do with the facts of your case. Following are a list of just a few possible reasons your case could be denied which you will want to watch out for:

  • Using incorrect or old expired forms

  • Filling forms out wrong

  • Missing deadlines

  • Forgetting necessary supporting documents

  • Failure to provide sufficient proof of your bona fide marriage or relationship

  • Failure to prove the requisite abuse or extreme cruelty

The Takeaway on VAWA Self-Petitions

Legal status should not be a factor when it comes to having a safe place to live. All humans deserve safety. If your immigration status depends on an abusive spouse or you are afraid to leave your children in an abusive home, VAWA protections can provide a path to obtaining a green card if you meet and can satisfy the eligibility requirements.

The legal process can be intimidating. The law office of Jennifer L. Bennett can provide a friendly and experienced helping hand to navigate US Immigration Law with the aim of keeping your family safe and legally placed in the United States. Contact us today for a consultation to discuss your situation.

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