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Gain independence from an abusive marriage through VAWA

You came to the United States with dreams and hopes for a better life. What happens if the life you built has turned into a nightmare? If you’re a legal immigrant married to a U.S. citizen who is abusive and threatens deportation, you might feel trapped. Don’t be. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) offers a lifeline.

VAWA provides a powerful tool for legal immigrants facing domestic violence. Through a VAWA self-petition, you can apply for a green card independently of your abusive spouse. This means that you don’t have to stay married to an abusive partner to maintain your legal immigration status.

Taking back control: Self-petitioning under VAWA

The VAWA petition, established in 1994, provides protection and support to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of abuse. The beauty of a VAWA self-petition is that you can initiate the process without your spouse’s knowledge. Moreover, the VAWA petition prioritizes the safety and privacy of victims. Information provided in the petition is kept confidential to help protect the petitioner from further harm or retaliation by the abuser. You qualify if:

  • You are the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR)
  • You have been physically abused or subjected to extreme cruelty by your spouse
  • You got married in good faith (meaning for reasons beyond just obtaining immigration status)

VAWA protection can also apply to divorced spouses if the abuse occurred during the marriage and the divorce was filed within the past two years.

Suppose you have helped law enforcement investigate or prosecute the abuse. In that case, you may be eligible for a U visa, which offers temporary immigration status and a path to a green card.

Gathering evidence is crucial before initiating the VAWA self-petition. This can include police reports, medical records documenting injuries, photos, witness statements and protection orders.

Getting out of an abusive relationship is a courageous step forward. Thankfully, VAWA can empower you to do so without fear of deportation. While the VAWA petition offers a lifeline to victims of abuse, navigating the legal process can be complex and daunting. Seeking the guidance of a knowledgeable and experienced legal professional is crucial for helping to ensure a smooth and successful petition process.

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