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Do You Qualify for a VAWA Self-Petition in the United States?

a woman holding a sign saying "its time to talk about it"

Do you want to self-petition under VAWA? If so, it is important that you know the qualifications. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defines an abuser as “someone who has committed one of the following crimes against their spouse or child: murder, kidnapping, sexual assault or rape, abuse, neglect or abandonment (if this conduct results in physical injury), false imprisonment; stalking; female genital mutilation; incestuous marriage; voluntary manslaughter (if this crime results in death); felony assault resulting in substantial bodily harm if it was done with intent to injure another person seriously and permanently by reason of their race, color religion or national origin.”

Who Is Eligible For A Petition?

Spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens and certain spouses and children of permanent residents (Green Card holders) to file a petition for themselves, without the abuser’s knowledge. This allows victims to seek both safety and independence from their abuser, who is not notified about the filing. It is important to know that both MEN and WOMEN can file for VAWA.

What Is Considered "Abuse"?

In order to qualify for a VAWA petition under these qualifications, it is important to note that the abuse occurred in the United States and between yourself and the abuser. Domestic violence or “abuse” is a pattern of behavior that is used by one’s partner or family member in order to gain or maintain power over the victim.

Abuse can be committed in many different ways. What may seem normal to some cultures or demographics is still considered abusive behavior and it is important to recognize that abuse comes in many forms. Battery can include smacking, kicking, or punching, as well as shoving, pushing, hair pulling, pinching, smacking, biting, and rape.

Real-Life Examples of What is Considered Abusive

Physical abuse and sexual abuse are some of the most common forms of abuse
  • Beatings or other types of attacks
  • Throwing objects at you or in your direction
  • Grabbing you or holding you down
  • Spitting on you or pulling your hair
  • Kicking you, punching you, pushing you, smacking you, shoving you
Sexual abuse is also common in marriages
  • Forced sexual intercourse with your spouse or another person
  • Being tricked into or coerced into having sex with your spouse or another person for safety reasons, to avoid consequences of threats, etc.
Emotional and psychological abuse are another form of qualifying abusive behaviors
  • Threats against yourself or your children
  • Holding your immigration status over your head, threatening to report you to immigration authorities or "have you deported"
  • Taking your passport, ID, documentation, or other vital documents so that you cannot leave
  • Calling you vulgar names, insulting you, swearing at you, screaming at you
  • Making you believe that you are about to be harmed
  • Being kicked out of the home or locked out for doing something they disapprove of
  • Preventing you from leaving a room or locking you somewhere that you cannot get out of
  • Manipulating you to do something they want by threatening to take something away or harm someone including yourself
Financial abuse is an additional form of qualifying abusive behavior
  • Withholding money from you to prevent you from spending money on your own
  • Prohibiting you from getting a job or keeping your paycheck
  • Taking your paycheck and depositing it in their bank account to prevent you from accessing it
  • Being required to request an "allowance" or disclose all purchases
  • Spending money that is meant to be for your immigration process, on something else without your consent
  • Demanding money from you or your family
  • Withholding passports, IDs, or vital documents in exchange for money
  • Refusing to give you access to a bank account or taking control of your bank account

The Extreme Cruelty Provision

The VAWA self-petition may also be granted if the applicant suffered extreme cruelty. Extreme cruelty meant to cover the “non-physical” aspects of domestic violence & abuse. Extreme cruelty is subjective which means that it is extremely important to disclose and discuss every action of the abuser’s behavior, because it can be a key part of your case.

The VAWA self petition process is not a quick fix for all immigration needs. VAWA allows for residency status to be granted on an affirmative basis (without having to prove “extreme hardship”) if it can be proven that there has been domestic violence.

If you are in need of VAWA self petitioning, it is important that you know what qualifies for VAWA petition so that you can try your best to qualify under these specifications. This will ensure a higher chance at getting approved. It is also imperative that one has documents showing they qualified under VAWA qualifications. The best way to find out if you are eligible for VAWA is to speak with an experienced immigration attorney.

How Do I Start the Process?

After reading our blog post about VAWA petitions, you should know how to apply for VAWA eligibility with U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services!
Now you can determine your next steps on whether or not you will need assistance applying for VAWA. We offer a free VAWA screening with a 15-minute case evaluation with a member of our team. If you believe you may qualify for VAWA, please consider getting your free screening so that we may help you move forward without your abuser

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