If you're a US immigrant experiencing abuse from a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or US citizen, there are laws in place that can help you escape your abuser and become a permanent US resident.
As a victim of abuse, applying for a green card will help you gain complete independence from your abuser.
An application for permanent US residency can be made through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Despite its name, the VAWA applies equally to male and female petitioners suffering abuse from a spouse, parent, or child.
It's important to be aware that if you're searching for VAWA-based green card information online or over the phone, your abuser may use or have access to the same devices.
If you're concerned your abuser may be tracking your movements, a VAWA immigration lawyer will be able to help. Your lawyer will communicate with you in a way that will not jeopardize your safety while you pursue your green card.
The VAWA, which stands for the Violence Against Women Act, was passed by Congress in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act.
The Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, was implemented to tackle crimes associated with domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking against women in the US.
The protection provided by the VAWA in 1994 was expanded in the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 (VAWA 2000). It was again improved in the Violence Against Women & Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA 2005).
The enactment of VAWA began in 1990 when then-Senator Joe Biden initiated the effort by submitting a preliminary proposal to Congress to address the violence against women.
Discussing the bill, Biden said at the time: "The bill has three broad, but simple, goals: to make streets safer for women; to make homes safer for women; and to protect women's civil rights."
As the current US president, Biden passed into law the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022.
For certain non-citizens in the US, VAWA has created special routes to immigration status. The VAWA Act applies equally to male and female petitioners who have suffered abuse.
Under the Act, you may be eligible to become a green card holder if you're the victim of battery, abuse or extreme cruelty committed by:
To qualify for a green card under VAWA, you'll need to prove that you meet a number of essential requirements.
These requirements include proving that:
To apply for a VAWA green card, it is important to retain the services of an experienced legal professional to represent you. Otherwise, you risk making mistakes and your application being denied. Ideally, it's beneficial to be in a scenario where no delays occur in your application due to a lack of evidence. If this happens, USCIS will ask you to send more documents, significantly slowing down your application process.
Once your application has been approved, your green card will be mailed to you by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
However, there is no set deadline for when the USCIS will get back to you with their decision, as the US immigration laws and regulations do not specify a deadline.
Even with everything going to plan, some applicants wait several years for approval.
Nevertheless, as you await to hear back on your immigration visa application, you'll receive a work permit allowing you to live independently and not rely on your abuser for financial support.
Overall, the VAWA Act provides an excellent opportunity for victims of LPR abusers to gain independence and safety from their abusers.
At Meimaris Law, we understand how being in an abusive relationship can be isolating. We also recognize how getting application forms and documents together for your VAWA green card application can be overwhelming and confusing.
This is why our team of talented immigration lawyers would be happy to help you on your journey toward getting a green card and becoming an LPR.
Our dedicated team has over 25 years of experience dealing with immigration law and helping clients begin new lives in the US.
Having an experienced VAWA immigration lawyer by your side throughout your application process can benefit you greatly. You don't have to go through your journey alone.
Get in touch today for your free consultation with our team.