If you or a loved one has non-citizen status, there are several statutes that provide eligibility for possible change of status. One such law is the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”). Passed in 1994, the VAWA was intended to protect victims of domestic abuse by creating a petition procedure to allow the victim(s) to move into citizens independent of their abuser. The problem, of course, was that citizenship is often based on a familial relationship — wife, child, mother, etc. But if the familial relationship includes physical abuse and cruelty, then a difficult choice is presented: either get out of the abusive relationship and lose your chance at citizenship or continue being abused and hope you get your citizenship soon. Such a situation is untenable and, frankly, cruel. Thus, Congress passed the VAWA. The immigration law representatives at Padda Law want to say, first, that if you are a victim of domestic abuse, you should seek safety as soon as you can. Then seek legal help. And know that your efforts to become a citizen are still viable even after you have freed yourself from abuse.
Here is what you need to know about the VAWA.
Immigration Law in Las Vegas: VAWA Basic Requirements
To be eligible to file an immigration petition under the VAWA, the following basic requirements must be met (additional details below):
- Applicant must be the spouse or child or parent of a US citizen or permanent resident;
- Said US citizen or permanent resident must be physically abusive cruel;
- Applicant resided with the abusive family member; and
- Applicant is of good moral character.
To apply under the VAWA, an applicant must file a Form I-360 Self-Petition along with the needed documentation. The application and the supporting documentation must demonstrate each and every one of the above criteria. For example, one can provide evidence of abuse by showing one or more of the following:
- Physical battery;
- Violent acts;
- Threats of violence;
- Sexual abuse or exploitation;
- Verbal abuse and degradation;
- Emotional abuse; and
- Threats to take away children or have one deported.
It is very important to seek experienced and supportive Las Vegas legal immigration counsel because the documentation has to be presented in the correct and proper manner. Plus, the definitions under the VAWA are not always “standard dictionary definitions.” For example, it is possible to be a “spouse” for purposes of the VAWA even if you are not currently married. See details below. Likewise, it is still possible to apply under the VAWA even if the abusive family member has died or has been deported. Again, see details below.
Form 1-360 is a self-petition; it does not require the input/signature or knowledge of the abusive US citizen or permanent resident. Indeed, the fact that Form I-360 is somewhat “secret” in that respect is intended to protect the victims of abuse; the non-involvement by the abusive family member keeps the victims safe from retaliation and enhanced abuse.
Note that the VAWA applies equally to men and women. While men are more often the abuser, women can be physically abusive too, and children can suffer abuse from mothers as well as fathers.
Immigration Law in Las Vegas: Additional Details About Spousal Applicants
Beyond the basic requirements set forth above, there are some extra details for each type of applicant under the VAWA. There are several ways that a spouse can file. If you are a spouse (man or woman) who is the direct subject of the abuse, you can file Form I-360. Likewise, if you are a spouse but the abuse is directed at your children, you can file Form I-360.
Abused spouses have a couple of extra criteria that they must prove: (i) that the marriage was entered into in good faith, (ii) that the abuse occurred during the marriage and (iii) the abuse occurred in the US.
Immigration Law in Las Vegas: What Constitutes “Marriage?”
If you are filing your Form I-360 based on being a spouse, you will need to show that you are currently married to the abusive US citizen/permanent resident OR that you were married within the preceding two years before filing your application under the VAWA.
If you are filing as a spouse, and the marriage ended in the preceding two years, you must show the marriage was terminated by death or divorce from the abusive spouse RELATED to the abuse.
There is also a good-faith-belief provision whereby you are eligible to apply as a spouse if believe you have been legally and legitimately married but such turns out to be false.
Immigration Law in Las Vegas: Additional Details About Child Applicants
A child victim of parental abuse is eligible to file Form I-360 if the child is under 21 years of age — or between 21 and 25 if the delay was caused by the abuse — and unmarried.
Immigration Law in Las Vegas: Including Others On Your I-360 Petition
In line with the idea that immigration should protect family units, if you are filing as a spouse, you may include on Form I-360 any children who are under 21 if they are unmarried. Obviously, the children can file Form I-360 themselves. But a spouse can include them on a single Form I-360 application.
Likewise, if you are a child applying on the basis of abusive parents, you can include your own children — the grandchildren — on your Form I-360.
Immigration Law in Las Vegas: Eligibility Under VAWA Even If Abusive Relative is Deported
Finally, you are still eligible to apply under the VAWA even if your abusive family member is no longer a permanent resident — they might have been deported or have renounced their citizenship or have otherwise lost permanent resident status. To be eligible, your application must be made within two years following the loss of permanent resident status by the abusive family member.
Immigration Law in Las Vegas: Contact Paul Padda Law Today
If you or someone you know has questions about immigration, contact Paul Padda Law today. The immigration attorneys at Paul Padda Law have decades of experience helping non-citizens convert their status and gain all the entitlements to which they are entitled under American law. Before he founded Paul Padda Law, Mr. Padda was a federal prosecutor. He knows how to deliver results and how to put you and your family first. With skill, good judgment, and aggressive advocacy, Paul Padda Law has been able to achieve outstanding results for numerous clients in Las Vegas and across Nevada. Call today to schedule your initial consultation. Hablamos español.