Our office frequently files immigration applications under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for immigrants who are dependent on abusive family members for their immigration status. An abused spouse, child or parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) may file an I-360 Self-Petition under VAWA. The following are some of the most common questions we hear about VAWA cases:
Can I file a VAWA petition if I don’t have a police report?
A police report, medical records, or a temporary protective order are nice to have in a VAWA case, but are not required. The reality is that many qualified VAWA applicants are too terrified to seek protection, medical care, or contact the police, as their abuser often threatens to get them deported should they seek help. A qualified immigration attorney can help eligible VAWA applicants plan alternative forms of evidence to present a strong case. Keep in mind that US CIS officers who review VAWA cases are trained in the dynamics of domestic violence, and understand the common barriers immigrant victims face in seeking protection.
Will my abuser find out about my application?
VAWA applications are confidential and US CIS does not share information about the case with anyone except the applicant and their attorney to ensure the safety of the applicant. US CIS will allow an alternative safe address on the application, so VAWA applicants can easily ensure no mail about the case will be sent home. Also, there are many non-profit organizations that can help immigrant victims put together a safety plan, as well as find shelters, counselors, and other confidential support.
Can a man file a VAWA petition?
VAWA provisions apply equally to men and women, and it is sadly not uncommon for a U.S. citizen or green card holder to mistreat family members dependent on them for immigration status. All applicants considering a VAWA application should review their case with a qualified attorney or BIA accredited representative to assess if they have been battered or subject to extreme cruelty.
Do I qualify for VAWA if I was not physically abused?
VAWA applicants must demonstrate they have been battered or subject to extreme cruelty. So applicants who were not physically harmed may still qualify if they have been subject to emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse or extremely cruel behavior. Meeting with domestic violence counselors in these cases is a good starting point to both heal and help the immigration case.
Can I file a VAWA petition if my abuser has a temporary visa or no legal status?
VAWA will generally not work in this scenario, but there may be other immigration protections available depending on the specifics in the case, including U visas, T visas, SIJ, asylum, deferred action, and work permits for certain spouses of those on temporary work visas (pending upcoming regulations).
The attorneys at Antonini & Cohen have many years of experience representing immigrants in all areas of immigration law, including both straightforward and complex filings based upon abuse. No matter your particular situation, contact us so we can advise on your options and strategy. You can get help even if you cannot afford an attorney.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline [http://www.thehotline.org/ ; 1-800-799-7233 ; 1-800-787-3224 has information about shelters, mental health care, legal advice and other types of assistance, including information about filing for immigration status.