The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides some protection to immigrants. Passed in 1994, VAWA allows spouses and their children who were victims of abuse by their US citizen or permanent resident spouse to self-petition and obtain a green card regardless of their marital status. In some instances, the abused spouse may file for permanent residence two years after his or her divorce.
An abused spouse or child of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident.
The self-petitioning spouse,
- Must be legally married to the US citizen or lawful permanent resident batterer. A self-petition may be filed if the marriage was terminated by the abusive spouse’s death within the two years prior to filing. A self-petition may also be filed if the marriage to the abusive spouse was terminated, within the two years prior to filing, by divorce related to the abuse.
- Must have been battered in the United States unless the abusive spouse is an employee of the United States government or a member of the uniformed services of the United States.
- Must have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage, or must be the parent of a child who was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by the US. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse during the marriage.
The self-petitioning child:
- Must qualify as the child of the abuser as defined in the INA for immigration purposes.