At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, we believe in the rights of immigrant women and children to escape situations of domestic violence and cruelty. That’s why we help individuals determine if they meet the VAWA requirements so they can achieve lawful permanent residence away from their abuser. Our immigration attorneys in Phoenix have extensive experience helping immigrants and their families obtain lawful permanent resident status. To schedule a consultation with a compassionate immigration lawyer, call Ybarra Maldonado Law Group at 602-910-4040 today.
What Are The VAWA Requirements?
Every day, immigrant women are experiencing extreme cruelty and are subjected to horrifying violence at the hands of their U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse/partner. This is why the VAWA (or Violence Against Women Act) was formed, as a means to combat this sad reality. VAWA helps victims of abuse from their U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse get a green card/permanent residency without the involvement or notification of the abusive person.
First, to qualify for the VAWA requirements, one must prove that they have been in an abusive relationship or are a battered spouse of a U.S. citizen and they have been living in the United States for at least three years. One must also prove that they are of good moral character and entered the marriage in good faith.
Eligibility Requirements for VAWA Self-petitioners
VAWA is designed for those who are in a domestic violence situation. While the name may imply that it is only targeted at women, men or minors can fill out a VAWA petition as well. There are a few ways to be eligible for the self petition for VAWA:
- You are an abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident.
- You are the abused child of a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident.
- You are the spouse of a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident that is abusing your child/children.
Whichever category you fall under, you must also demonstrate a good moral character and provide evidence that you have married your spouse/partner in good faith.
It is common for immigrants to not seek help or self petition because they don’t believe that they will qualify, but this could simply be because all abuse looks different and varies from home to home. Domestic violence is defined as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” With control being the main objective for these types of partners, there are many ways they can manipulate someone emotionally or physically. Some of these ways are:
- Physical abuse, assault, battery
- Extreme cruelty
- Sexual abuse, assault, or rape
- Emotional Abuse (gaslighting, manipulation, coercion)
- Technological Abuse
- Psychological Abuse
- Financial or Economic Abuse
- And More
It is also common for abusers to threaten your immigration status, deport you or withhold your necessary documents. You are still eligible for VAWA if this occurs. Please call Ybarra Maldonado Law Group at (602) 910-4040 if you need help from an experienced VAWA lawyer. Our team will provide more information on the VAWA requirements or need help filling out a VAWA self petition.
Qualifying Relationship With United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
Self-petitioners must be able to prove that they have suffered abuse from and have a qualifying relationship with a U.S. citizen or LPR to receive VAWA benefits. Those with qualifying relationships include:
- An abused child of a lawful permanent resident parent or U.S. Citizen
- Abused parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter 21 years or older
- An abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or LPR or the spouse of a U.S. Citizen or LPR who is abusing your child/children.
There are other stipulations to qualify for VAWA benefits. However, there is loads of evidence required for your case, including proving the abuser’s citizenship status. Both USCIS and the attorneys at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group know how hard it can be to acquire your abuser’s documentation given the situation. That is why it is extremely important to have a team of lawyers ready to fight for you and have them go after the information you require. Some of the main evidence required is as follows, but is not limited to:
- A U.S. birth certificate
- Copy of an unexpired passport that has been issued a full ten years to the abuser over the age of 18 at the time of issuance
- Copy of an unexpired passport that has been issued a full five years to the abuser under the age of 18 at the time
- A statement from the U.S. consular officer certifying the abuser to be a U.S. citizen and passport holder
- The abuser’s Certificate of Nationalization or their Certificate of Citizenship or a copy of both (if applicable)
- The abuser’s Report of Birth Abroad by a U.S. Citizen (if applicable)
To establish a true qualifying relationship, a self-petitioning spouse must also have a legally valid marriage to the U.S. citizen or LPR abuser by the time the petition is filed. However, you may still qualify even after the marriage has been terminated due to divorce, annulment, or death.
How to File VAWA I-360 Petition?
The VAWA I-360 petition is a form used to classify a certain type of immigrant. This was created for:
- An Ameriasian (born between December 31, 1950, and October 23, 1982)
- A widow(er) of a U.S. citizen
- Any VAWA petitioner qualifying under the other terms we’ve already listed
- Or a special immigrant. A special immigrant is defined as one of the following:
- A religious worker
- Panama Canal Company employee, Canal zone government employee, or U.S. government in the Canal Zone employee
- NATO-6 or international organization or family member
- Juvenile requiring protection who may have been abandoned or abused by a parent
- U.S. armed forces member
- Afghan or Iraqi national who worked on behalf of the U.S. government
There are other classifications not listed here but may also be eligible to file Form I-360. Contact a YMLG immigration attorney today for more information regarding whether or not you may qualify.
Submitting the VAWA Self-Petition
Submitting a VAWA self-petition may seem like a daunting task, but there are many options available. The most convenient option is submitting online, but there is an option to submit by mail. If you need guidance with this task, the team at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group is waiting to answer your call and any questions you may have.
After Submission of the I-360 Self-Petition Form
Once the 1-360 form has been submitted with all your evidence, it will need to be reviewed and processed. This usually takes somewhere between 16-21 months. Once the case has been reviewed, USCIS will issue something called the Prima Facie Determination Notice should your case qualify.
I-751 Waiver Petitions for Conditional Residents
When first married to a U.S. Citizen or LPR, there is a two-year conditional hold placed on the immigrant’s green card. This is referred to as a conditional green card. The government is expecting the couple to file their I-175 form 90 days prior to expiration to remove conditions from their green card to achieve a more permanent status. Failing to do so results in automatic termination, so you can imagine how abusers can use this to their advantage to gain control of their spouse or partner. Now, because of VAWA, a victim can file this form independently with a request for a “waiver” but must show proof of abuse.
Frequently Asked Questions About the VAWA Self-Petitioning Process
What Is VAWA?
VAWA is a law and the acronym for the Violence Against Women Act, but benefits are not limited to just women. Children and men are also protected under this bill. Among several other things, VAWA helps immigrants or family members of immigrants that are being abused seek legal permanent residency without the knowledge or permission of their abuser.
What Happens if I Qualify for VAWA?
If you qualify for VAWA, you will be eligible for work authorization and possibly some form of public benefits (depending on your state). You can also apply for your green card, but the processing time varies depending on if you are a spouse of an LPR or a U.S. citizen.
What if My Abuser Gets Deported?
If your abuser was an LPR at the time of the abuse before deportation, you may still qualify.
What if I no Longer Live with My Abusive Spouse?
You do not need to live with your spouse/partner to apply. You can even file your petition up to two years after your divorce. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to call Ybarra Maldonado Law Group to help you get started on this journey today.
If I Divorced My Abusive Partner Before Removing Conditions on My Marriage Green Card, Can VAWA Help Me?
If you divorce your partner before removing conditions to your green card– there is still hope for VAWA benefits. If you entered the marriage in good faith, but it resulted in divorce, you can file the I-751 form with a waiver to attempt to remove conditions. This is something you will need an accomplished attorney to monitor and advocate for your case. The law office of Ybarra Maldonado is educated and ready to do just that.
What Happens When Your I-360 Is Approved?
Once the I-360 is approved, now is when you can start making preparations and taking steps toward filing for your green card. The first step in this process is filling out form I-485. If your spouse is a U.S. citizen, you can apply to adjust your status immediately, but if your spouse or partner was an LPR, you would have to wait for a visa to become available. In the meantime, the I-360 will allow you to temporarily remain lawfully in the United States.
Call Ybarra Maldonado for All Phoenix Citizenship and Immigration Services
No one should have to suffer alone. If you or your family members need representation you can trust, look no further than Ybarra Maldonado Law Group in Phoenix, Arizona. With a strong sense of community and the belief that migration is a natural human right, we strive to work diligently for our clients and help them achieve the life they deserve. Call Ybarra Maldonado today or go online to chat with an attorney. Don’t wait, let us help you.