VAWA: Violence Against Women Act
If you are a non-citizen married to a U.S. Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (a green card holder), and you are the victim of domestic abuse by that person, you may qualify for immigration benefits under VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act. Even if you are divorced, you may also qualify. Battered women, abused children and parents of U.S. Citizens and green card holders may also be eligible. Please see a general list of eligibility requirements to file a VAWA self-petition based on domestic violence, or contact one of the immigration attorneys at our Michigan law firm.
VAWA self-petitions are adjudicated by a special unit of the immigration service and strict confidentiality of the petitions is mandated by law and federal policies and regulations. Although VAWA petitions may take a year to be decided, the petitioner can be provided with work authorization soon after the petition is filed. A self-petitioner’s immigration status is protected while the petition is pending. A general overview of the eligibility requirements can be found below. For more information about VAWA protections and benefits, and to determine whether you qualify, please contact us.
A basic overview of the requirements that must be met to qualify for immigration benefits under VAWA:
About the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
VAWA is a federal law passed by Congress in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The law is far-reaching and seeks to deter violence against women and to offer protection to victims of abuse, trafficking, sexual assault, and other violent crimes by creating several forms of assistance. Despite the name of the Act, it does not protect women exclusively. Men who are the victims of abuse are also protected by this law. The name, however, aptly reflects that the overwhelming majority of victims of domestic violence are women.
VAWA also resulted in changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act so that now it is possible for abused spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) to petition on their own (self-petition) for lawful permanent resident status, i.e. obtain a green card. This is significant because it means the abused immigrant no longer needs to rely on the abuser to obtain or maintain legal immigration status in the U.S.
About Domestic Violence (DV)
Domestic violence is a criminal act, punishable by law. It involves the abuse of the victim by her or his intimate partner. Under VAWA, abuse of a spouse, parent or child is recognized as a basis for immigration benefits. (Many states’ laws extend the definition and punish for abuse to any household member.) Although domestic violence is not limited to married couples, and often occurs between unmarried partners, for purposes of obtaining an immigration benefit under VAWA, unmarried victims are not eligible to qualify. Domestic violence is not defined solely by physical abuse, though that is an extremely common aspect of the abuse. Sexual, emotional, and mental abuse can also form the basis of domestic violence and are prevalent in most domestic violence situations.
Abuse can be manifested in various forms of control. For non-citizen victims, this abusive control likely includes threats of calling the immigration authorities or the police, hiding the victim’s immigration papers, passport, and other important documents, preventing her from learning English, and isolating her from friends and family.
If you are the victim of domestic violence (or if you know someone who is), your safety is the highest priority. There are several local and national organizations that may be able to provide you with assistance. A national hotline is available at 1−800−799−7233, 24 hours a day. If you live in Metropolitan Detroit, you can contact HAVEN for a number of services via their crisis hotline at 248-334-1274, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Although victims of domestic violence may also be the victims of trafficking, the two crimes do not always overlap. Trafficking is a crime and a human rights abuse that results in forced or coerced labor or commercial sexual exploitation of a person. Thousands of children, women, and men enter the U.S. as victims of trafficking each year. There are laws in place to protect and assist victims of trafficking. Please contact us for more information about immigration benefits available to trafficking victims.
If you have been trafficked, or believe you know someone who is the victim of human trafficking, you may contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 for assistance. You can also report suspicious activities to federal authorities at 1-866-347-2423.
The Law Firm of Antone, Casagrande & Adwers, P.C. helps individuals and businesses worldwide with all of their US immigration needs including employment visas, obtaining green cards for business and corporate employees and family members, visas for doctors, nurses, therapists, and other health care workers, together with waivers for physicians under J visa training program, labor certifications (PERM), national interest waivers, marriage-based adjustments and green cards, fiancee visas, family immigration preferences, students, naturalization and citizenship, including medical waivers, asylum, deportation, hardship waivers, voluntary departure and removal. We serve clients in southeast Michigan including the Detroit Metro area, Ann Arbor, and Lansing. With offices in Farmington Hills, MI, we are close to Southfield, Troy, West Bloomfield, Birmingham, Novi, Rochester and Auburn Hills in Oakland County; Canton, Plymouth, Dearborn, and Detroit in Wayne County; Warren, Sterling Heights, and Mount Clemens in Macomb County; Brighton and Howell in Livingston County; Lansing in Ingham County; City of Monroe in Monroe County, Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County; Grand Rapids in Kent County; Battle Creek in Calhoun County; Kalamazoo in Kalamazoo County; Benton Harbor in Berrien County; Holland in Ottawa County; Flint in Genesee County; Ludington in Mason County; Muskegon in Muskegon County; and Traverse City in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Although many of our clients are located in the tri-county area of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb, we also serve clients in many cities and states in the U.S. including Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin; Indianapolis, Indiana; Buffalo, New York; Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, California; Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; Dallas, Houston, El Paso and Galveston, Texas; Miami, Florida; Washington D.C.; Virginia, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and many others. In addition to the United States, we also serve Canadian nationals from numerous provinces in Canada, including Toronto and Windsor in Ontario; Montreal in Quebec; Halifax in Nova Scotia; and Vancouver, British Columbia. We also serve cities and countries such as London, England; Scotland and other countries of the United Kingdom (U.K.); Mexico, Paris, France; Frankfurt and Berlin, Germany; Tokyo, Japan; India; Brazil; Rome, Italy; Shanghai and Beijing, China; Belgium; the Philippines, and many other countries in Europe, Asia and South America.