Domestic violence is an unfortunate reality of our society, across both immigrant and non-immigrant populations. Individuals who are not citizens of the United States, however, face additional barriers to receiving support. Thankfully, the American immigration system has passed legislation to help protect immigrant victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other similar criminal activity. 

Navigating the process of VAWA immigration is far from easy, and many individuals seek assistance from experienced attorneys while applying for lawful status in the United States. We understand how intimidating this process can be for many people, often accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and fear. At JLB Law Group, we are dedicated to making you feel safe and confident in the outcome of our application. To begin the process today, consider contacting our Chicago office at (312) 972-7969 today.

What is the Violence Against Women Act?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is an important piece of legislation that improves the legal and community-based response to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other domestic violence crimes in the United States. The Act was passed in 1994 and has since been reauthorized three different times, extending its authorities and immigration options. Since its inception, VAWA has been implemented to protect immigrant women and men in the United States who have been victims of domestic violence or other similar crimes.  

What is VAWA Immigration?

There are millions of immigrants living in the United States, many of whom find employment in industries that leave them vulnerable to domestic violence harassment, or discrimination. For example, studies show that individuals employed in the domestic care, hotel, food service, and agricultural industries experience high rates of sexual harassment and assault. Since roughly half of all immigrant women are employed in these industries, they are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence crimes.

Issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking, and workforce exploitation pose serious threats to noncitizens living in the United States. VAWA creates special channels for certain battered non-citizens of the United States to immigrate to the country. VAWA immigration offers an avenue for obtaining permanent residency or other immigration that does not rely on their abusive spouse or parent. Many times, women or men may depend on their employer for their visa status or rely on their spouse to petition for them through family-based immigration, leaving them afraid to report crimes that may occur in the home or workplace. VAWA immigration seeks to prevent these issues. 

What Protections Does VAWA Have for Immigrants?

The Violence Against Women Act has created several protections for immigrants in the United States. VAWA and its various reauthorizations have established different options for victims of abuse and violence, namely:

  • U visa. This option is available for victims of certain crimes that were committed in the United States who suffered significant physical or psychological damage because of these crimes. If the victim has information related to the crime and is willing to share this information with authorities, they may be eligible for a U visa. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services lists all of the qualifying crimes. 
  • T visa. This non-immigrant visa is available to victims of sex or labor trafficking who are willing to assist in the investigation and/or prosecution of these crimes. The T visa is valid for up to four years, after which a person may qualify to adjust their status and obtain permanent residency.
  • VAWA self-petition. This is a valuable VAWA immigration option that allows a person to file for Lawful Permanent Resident status without the cooperation of an abusive family member. 

What is the VAWA Self-Petition?

Under the Violence Against Women Act, victims of domestic violence and other forms of extreme abuse can self-petition for Lawful Permanent Resident status, also known as a Green Card. This allows a person to apply for their Green Card without the assistance or cooperation of their abusive family member. Victims are still able to self-petition even if they are divorced from their abusive spouse, so long as the marriage was terminated within two years of filing. 

Specifically, a person can file a VAWA self-petition if they are the victim of abuse or extreme cruelty committed by any of the following:

  • A United States citizen spouse, former spouse, parent, or child
  • A Lawful Permanent Resident spouse, former spouse, or parent

Under VAWA immigration, when a self-petition is accepted, the individual is provided with work authorization, deferred action, and the ability to apply for a Green Card. 

How Can an Attorney Help with the VAWA Self-Petition Process?

Unfortunately, like any other immigration process, the VAWA self-petition process is highly complicated and requires a great deal of evidence to support the claim of the victim. For instance, to have a self-petition accepted, the individual must be able to prove:

  • Their relationship to the abuser
  • That the marriage was in good faith
  • Prove the abusive family member is a U.S. citizen or green card holder
  • Good moral character
  • They lived with the abuser
  • Prove abuse under the proper legal definition

It is important to understand that the exact documentation and evidence that is required depends on the unique circumstances of your case. Due to the complexity of the self-petition process and the sensitivity of the issue, many victims of domestic violence seek assistance from an experienced VAWA immigration attorney during the application process. Moreover, any communication that you receive from the USCIS can be sent to the attorney’s office rather than your personal address. 

An experienced attorney will understand the VAWA self-petition process and the common pitfalls that people encounter while applying. In this way, legal counsel can help you avoid these mistakes and ensure that your application is filed correctly and processed as quickly as possible.

Issues of domestic violence and abuse are highly sensitive. When choosing legal counsel, be sure that you are comfortable and at ease with the attorney. You should feel confident that they have your interests in mind and that they are compassionate to your struggle. These qualities will help as you work through this potentially difficult process. 

Call Compassionate VAWA Immigration Attorney at the Law Office of Jennifer L. Bennett Today

If you or a family member may meet the requirements under VAWA immigration, it’s important to get started as soon as possible and you will want an experienced attorney on your side. The processing times for immigration can be lengthy and time-intensive, which is why it is important to get started right away with proving your case to the federal government. 

Whether you are the victim of domestic violence or are seeking information for an abused loved one, JLB Law Group is here to provide sensitive, compassionate legal assistance. As a woman-owned law firm, we prioritize understanding and empathy at every step of the way, making the process of obtaining lawful visa status and permanent residency easier and safer for victims of abuse. For more information on how we can help your VAWA immigration case, consider contacting our office at (312) 972-7969 today.