VAWA:  Immigration based on Parent Abuse

Immigration Relief for Abused Parents

A foreign parent who is abused by a U.S. citizen son or daughter may apply for immigration protections under the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA.

Note:  Although VAWA refers to women, abused parent can be a father as well.


Physical abuse normally involves injuries, but that’s not always the case.  A witness who sees a son or daughter striking the foreign parent in anger can qualify along with other factors.  Reporting abuse to the police or saving medical records helps; or

Mental cruelty must involve suffering by the victim due to the intentional infliction of suffering by the son or daughter.  Circumstances matter greatly.  Many families argue, and even fight.  The level of cruelty must be greater than not so unusual problems in the family.  Normally, the cruelty is over the course of time to show there is no love in the relationship and that the victim is not a willing participant in aggression.

The parental relationship

Biological Parent:  You and your son or daughter must have resided together in the same household at some point.  It is not necessary to have resided in the same home during the abuse.

The biological parent must still be a parent and not have given up parental rights through adoption or otherwise at the time the VAWA petition is filed.

Adoptive Parent:  An adoptive parent may file under VAWA if the adoption occurred prior to the 16th birthday of the abusive child and such parent and child lived together at least 2 years after either adoption or legal guardianship has been obtained.  So, in the case of adoption, it appears that the son or daughter and the adoptive parent must have lived together in the same home when the child was no older than 16.

It is necessary that the parental relationship existed at the time of abuse and at the time of filing the VAWA petition.

Stepparent:  A stepparent may file under VAWA so long as the marriage with the parent of the stepchild occurred prior to the child turning 18 years of age.  Step parenting does not require that the corollary biological parent give up legal rights over the child.

The step parenting relationship must have occurred during the abuse and at the time of filing the VAWA petition.  In the event of death, separation, or divorce from the stepchild’s other parent, the abused parent must have maintained a parenting relationship with the abusive child through filing the VAWA petition.

See, USCIS Policy Manual PM-602-0046


The abused parent may not include other children in the VAWA petition.

When to file

A parent VAWA petition can be filed only if the son or daughter is over 21 years of age.

Where to file

Most VAWA victims are inside the U.S.  As such, a claim is filed with the USCIS.  However, it is possible for a foreign parent to file a claim under VAWA at a U.S. consulate abroad if:

  • The abuse occurred inside the U.S.;
  • The abuser is an employee of the U.S. government; or
  • The abuser is in the U.S. Armed Services.

It is also possible to file for VAWA while in removal (deportation) proceedings.

EAD Work Authorization

Normally, you should be able to apply for work authorization in the U.S. 150 days after your VAWA petition is filed provided it appears you are eligible for VAWA.  Lately, there have been delays in the issuance of EAD cards.  Working without authorization is not advised, but sometimes is necessary to survive.

All decisions by the USCIS and judges are discretionary.  It is important to work with a competent immigration attorney in order to increase your chances of success and secure your VAWA immigration benefits.


We are very easy to talk to in this office, so please just call if you are having difficulties in your abusive child and want solutions.  All calls are confidential.  Your child never needs to know you filed a VAWA claim, and you don’t need to discuss it with him or her.  We are here to help you and to give you information so you can decide what you want to do.

If you have an interest in working with us on case processing, please complete our free consultation form, and we'll give you personal attention.

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