Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Violence Against Women Act

Immigration Relief for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Other Crimes


VAWA is the acronym for the Violence Against Women Act, which was passed by Congress in 1994.  Among other things, VAWA created special provisions in United States immigration law to protect victims of abuse who are not citizens of the United States.  In cases of domestic violence, US immigration law allows certain victims of abuse who are not citizens to obtain lawful status without having to rely on their abuser to petition.

VAWA allows an abused spouse or child of a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident  or an abused parent of a U.S. Citizen to self-petition for lawful status in the United States, receive employment authorization and access public benefits. VAWA provides domestic violence survivors with the means that are essential to escaping violence and establishing safe, independent lives.

Normally, if you are a spouse, child or parent of a US citizen (USC) or a spouse or child of a legal permanent resident (LPR) and you want to obtain lawful permanent resident status (commonly referred to as having a “green card”), the USC or LPR has to file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and may need to go with you to an interview with Immigration authorities.

However, in relationships of domestic violence, these requirements for the USC or LPR’s participation are often used by an abuser as a form of abuse, gaining power and control over the immigration status of the victim.  Therefore, US immigration law allows certain noncitizen victims of abuse to get legal status on their own without involving the abuser to file anything for the victim.

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