The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a U.S. federal law that aims to protect individuals, regardless of their gender, from domestic violence and other forms of abuse. VAWA allows certain immigrant victims of domestic violence to self-petition for a green card, granting them lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.

The following individuals may be eligible to self-petition for VAWA benefits: 

  1. Spouses of U.S. citizens or green card holders; 
  2. Children (unmarried and under 21 years old) of U.S. citizen or green card holder parents; and 
  3. Parents of U.S. citizen children.

To obtain a green card under VAWA, the victim must demonstrate that they have experienced battery or extreme cruelty by their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, or parent, or U.S. citizen child. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, and/or psychological in nature. 

If the petition is approved, the applicant can proceed with the adjustment of status process to become a lawful permanent resident. This status allows them to live and work in the country, travel internationally, and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship, if eligible.

Family members

Unmarried children (under 21 years old) of a VAWA-based principal applicant may also be eligible to apply for a Green Card as a derivative family member of an approved VAWA self-petitioner. However, this does not apply if the principal applicant is a parent of an abusive U.S. citizen son or daughter.

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