VAWA Petition: legalize your status in the United States

Legalize your status of you have been a victim of domestic violence. You will find the information you need here.

How can you get VAWA? Do you have a chance to apply? Even though this is a widely discussed topic, the truth is that not many people know how it works, and everything that needs to get done to get permanent residence status in the United States when you are not a legal resident.

What is VAWA

VAWA stands for ‘Violence Against Women Act’, and was passed by Congress in 1994 to protect those who have suffered abuse or ‘extreme cruelty’ by a parent, a spouse, or former spouse who is an American citizen.

Likewise, if you have been abused by your son, who is an American citizen, or by a spouse, former spouse, or parent who is a legal permanent resident (LPR).

It is important to highlight that a VAWA application can be made without knowledge or permission from the abuser. However, if you are dealing with a lengthy procedure that needs to be clearly and openly known to avoid any inconveniences. That is why we will tell you everything you need to know in this article.

How can you apply for VAWA ? 

There is a form called the I-360 Form, by means of which you can make a petition to classify a foreign citizen as either an Amerasian, widow or widower of an American citizen, spouse or abused child of a citizen or LPR, abused parent of a citizen or a special immigrant, classified as:

  • Religious worker.
  • Physician.
  • Minor who has been emancipated by a Juvenile Court.
  • Member of the armed forces.

Generally speaking, the applicant will be responsible for his own petition, or if necessary a ‘self-petition’. If the application is approved, the applicant could eligible for a ‘Green Card’ in the United States. But before that, she or he needs to meet the eligibility requirements below:

  • Be physically present in the United States territory in order to get a ‘Green Card’. Other requirements from the I-485 Form must be met.
  • Be eligible to get an immigrant visa.
  • Be sure that you have been granted an immigrant visa from the I-485 Form.
  • Make sure that the adjustment vetoes do not apply to you.
  • Find out if you are ‘admissible’ to obtain LRP or any other immigration benefit.
  • Keep in mind that USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) will exercise utmost discretion when taking your case.  

You might be wondering now: ‘Can I get an immigrant visa?’ Only in the following cases:

  • By means of a VAWA self-petition, if you are an Amerasian, widow or widower, or a special immigrant. 
  • By means of a VAWA self-petition que if the person has an open process.
  • By means of a VAWA self-petition aprobadathat has been approved along with an I-485 Form. 

“It is important to highlight that a VAWA application can be made without the consent of the abuser”

What is the procedure like when you apply for VAWA?

The first thing you need to know is that you must meet the criteria mentioned above in order to get the ‘Green Card’ without leaving the country. Do not forget that you need to present the I-360 Form to get the ‘Green Card’.

If you an immigrant visa available to you, you do not have to wait for the I-360 Form to be approved in order to move on to the I-485 petition.

Also, if you are a VAWA self-petitioner looking for an ‘adjustment of status’ with a close relative, then you should present the I-485 Form whenever you want. Since there always available visas for close relatives. 

However, if you are in fact looking for an ‘adjustment of status’ by means of an ‘Alien Relative Petition’, you should wait until a visa is available. For more information, we recommend visiting the news page of the Department of State. 

If as a self-petitioner you have an open I-485 process through an I-130 Form, which has been requested by the abuser, you have the right to request that your I-485 Form be modified and changed to your current VAWA self-petition

In order to do this, it is necessary that you notify USCIS within 30 days. USCIS will require that you also provide a safe address to which they can mail you all their notifications. We suggest that you finish this process within the set time established by them so that you may avoid unnecessary delays. 

If you are not in the United States, you need to visit the USCIS website for more information on how to get a ‘Green Card’ if you are a VAWA self-petitioner.

What documents do you need for a VAWA self-petition? 

  • I-485 Petition.
  • Copy of the I-797 Form, procedure that it is not necessary if you present the I-360 and I-485 Forms. 
  • Two  passport-sized photographs.
  • Copy of your ID document.
  • Copy of your birth certificate. 
  • Waiver for the affidavit of support. 
  • Medical report and vaccinations.
  • Copy of your immigrant visa (which would be on your passport, if you have it).
  • Copies of your entrance stamps/permits into the United States.
  • Show your police record, if needed.
  • Show any documents that may show that you do not have immigrant status, if needed.

What if your I-360 Form is rejected? 

If this were to happen, the applicant can make an appeal. The refusal letter will clearly let you know how to do that. The notice of appeal must be done 33 days after the refusal has been received.

The applicant should pay for the corresponding fees and, along with the form in the service center, the appeal will be referred to the authorities. The applicant must keep an eye on the status of his or her application, because if it is rejected, you only have 33 days to solve this situation.

Can a man apply for VAWA? 

The answer is yes, since men can also make use of the VAWA self-petition according to what was outlined in the Violence Against Women Act.

Likewise, it is noteworthy that the VAWA procedure applies to any person regardless of gender. Men who have been victims of abuse can also apply for VAWA as long as they meet all the requirements. This is a law neutral in regards to gender. 

What must the relationship with the abuser be like when you apply for VAWA?

The applicant does not need to continue the relationship with the abuser in order to get the I-360 petition, 

The applicant does not need to continue being married to the abuser in order to have his or her I-360 petition. Since the year 2000 you can do it regardless of your relationship to him or her. However, if the applicant is still married to the abusive spouse, you must meet some requirements:

  • You need to have believed that you were still legally married to your spouse even if the marriage is invalid due to bigamy on part of the abuser. 
  • A diseased spouse that passed away 2 years after the petition was made.
  • Whether the spouse had renounced to his or her citizenship or LPR because of violent behavior. 
  • The marriage must have ended within the last 2 years before the application was sent and a relationship between the end of the marriage and the aggression. 

It is important to mention that whether the marriage was nullified or not, it is irrelevant to your immigration petition. Generally speaking, this process requires professional legal help , so it is strongly recommended that you seek help from an attorney, the guidance of a competent immigration lawyer will increase your chances of successfully completing the process.

How can you benefit from VAWA in a case of divorce 

There is no problem whatsoever if a divorced person applies for VAWA as long as the divorce process was completed 2 years before the application date, and if you an establish that there is a relationship between the divorce and the case of violence.

It is very important to note that if the I-360 Form is rejected if the applicant remarries before it is approved. But if the person gets married after this form is approved, this will have no effect on the petition.

What are the rights of these citizens?

Even when a person in the United States does not have a citizen or LPR status, he or she has rights that guarantee:

  • Legal protection for any person and his or her family.
  • The right to separate from his or her spouse without his or her consent.
  • The right to share a marital property. 
  • The right to request economical support and child custody.

In this article, we are trying to provide as much information as possible so that you understand how VAWA works. Nevertheless, this is a complex process so you should definitely try to find help from an immigration lawyer.

What if I am in a deportation process?

If this is your case, and you are a victim of domestic violence, it is possible that you can apply for a cancellation of deportation through VAWA. If your VAWA petition is approved, your deportation would be avoided and you would be able to have a legal permanent resident status.

And once again, we must remind you that the best way to determine whether you can apply for a cancellation of deportation or not, is to have a competent immigrant lawyer. We would be happy to help you, and we have plenty of experience with VAWA cases

Can minors apply for VAWA?

Once again, the answer is yes. If you are 21 years old or younger, single, and have been a victim of domestic violence by one of your parents who is an American citizen or LPR, you can choose to make your petition and get legal permanent residence. 

If you already turned 21, it does not matter, you still have time to do it until you turn 25. You only need to prove that you were a victim of abuse.

For the American authorities to believe that you are an abused child, you need to prove the following: 

  • You are the child of an abuser who has American citizenship or permanent residence in the United States.
  • You must actually be the victim of abuse by one of you parents who is either an American citizen or LPR.
  • You need to prove that you lived for some time with your parent who abused you.
  • You must be of good moral character.

What will happen to the abuser?

You must understand that if the abuser is an American citizen or a LPR, he or she will not be able to avoid justice and will have to face charges for abuse. 

If the abuser is a LPR, it is most likely that he or she will lose that status and might face deportation proceedings.  

If he or she is a citizen, he or she might not lose his or her citizen status but might need to face criminal charges in the United States. 


Throughout this article, we reviewed many different parts of the Violence Against Women Act, and what citizens must do if they want to obtain their residence, a path that (as you may have noticed), is not at all easy, especially if you have been a victim of domestic violence.

First and foremost, it is essential that you understand how this process works in general, so that you can find out whether you really qualify for VAWA or not. If you do not actually qualify, it would be pointless to apply since your application will be rejected and you might be stuck in appealing proceedings that would not be at all easy. 

Therefore, once again we strongly recommend that you seek professional legal assistance , a competent immigration lawyer who has experience in VAWA and knows well what needs to be done for your residence to be approved.

Being an immigrant could turn into one of the most difficult experiences a person can face, and if you top it with being a victim of abuse, that is just one of the worst situations you can face. So, under such circumstance, a law such as VAWA, it is very important to protect those who make the decision of leaving their countries to find better conditions in a foreign land.

For instance, if you qualify for VAW, make sure you start the process as soon as possible, and do not forget to find professional help to avoid unnecessary delays or inconveniences. 

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