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What Is VAWA And How To Get A Green Card Using VAWA

March 02, 2023

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.

What is the VAWA?

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. 

Requirements for VAWA

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:

  • A US citizen (USC) spouse or former spouse
  • A USC parent
  • A USC child
  • An LPR spouse or ex-spouse 
  • An LPR parent

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:

  • Your abuser is currently or was previously a USC or LPR – This may be proven with a birth certificate, green card, or naturalization certificate 
  • Your abuser is a US resident – An exception exists if your abuser works for the US government or armed services abroad
  • Abuse or battery occurred during the relationship – This may include evidence from police reports, court documents, medical records, school officials, social workers, or clergy members
  • Evidence of legal relationship with your abuser – For example, a divorce decree, marriage certificate, or birth certificate
  • You entered marriage with your USC or LPR abuser with good intentions – This evidence can include a shared insurance policy, mortgage, or credit card, along with shared experiences and proof of a wedding ceremony.
  • You live in the US – Proof can be provided by presenting your driver’s license,  tax return, utility bill, lease agreement, etc.
  • You lived with your abuser at some point – This can be proven with documents such as shared leases, deeds, mortgages, rental agreements, utility bills, etc.
  • You’re a person of good moral character – You’ll need to include proof of charity/ volunteer work or positive affidavits from friends, family, an employer, or coworkers will also suffice.

How to get a VAWA green card?

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.

How long does it take a VAWA green card to be approved?

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.

Find an immigration lawyer at Meimaris Law.

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.

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