What is VAWA?
The Violence Against Women Act is a body of law that gives relief to victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence can include either physical or emotional abuse. Emotional abuse alone is more difficult to prove because you must show extreme cruelty.
Foreigners who are in the U.S. can obtain immigration benefits, including green cards, if they meet certain requirements under VAWA. Foreigners outside the U.S. can also obtain VAWA benefits leading to an immigrant visa and a green card in certain circumstances.
Immigration benefits apply to these foreign victims:
- Spouse who is abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident green card holder. The abused spouse may file together with her unmarried child dependents who are under 21 years of age;
- Child, unmarried and under 21, who is abused by a U.S. citizen or green card holder;
- Parent of an child who is abused by a US citizen or green card holder, and the parent is married to the abuser; and
- Parent of an abusive son or daughter who is a US citizen or green card holder.
Men and boys can be victims as well even though the Act focuses on abused women, which are unfortunately the main victims.
VAWA helps victims who are foreigners to seek various immigration benefits, eventually resulting in green cards. VAWA does not provide relief to all abusive behavior.
An abused foreigner can file a VAWA petition and eventually receive work authorization to work at any job in the US. Previously, a VAWA petitioner could apply for work authorization 5 months after the VAWA petition is filed. However, the Trump Administration has sought to extend the time for applying for work authorization (EAD card). This matter is currently in litigation. It’s unclear when work authorization will be issued.
If the foreigner receives an approved VAWA petition, the next step is to file for a green card if the foreigner is inside the U.S. If outside the U.S., the foreigner would apply for an immigrant visa. A green card could be issued shortly upon arrival in the US.
Anyone who has a green card based on marriage already in process when separation occurs due to the abuse, please let us know and we can discuss best options.
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