If you have come to America and now find yourself in a dangerous situation at home, you may be able to divorce or leave your situation while protecting your right to remain in the United States by using the Violence Against Women Act.
The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, provides immigrant women and other victims of crimes against losing their right to stay in the United States after they leave dangerous or violent situations. In 2019, it was reported that around 23 million immigrant women and young girls were in the United States. Many deal with domestic violence, exploitation and human trafficking.
Women relying on visas thought their spouses can seek help through VAWA
Noncitizens who are living in America but who have visas through being married to their citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses could be at risk of losing their right to stay if they divorce. However, if domestic violence or other crimes are influencing the victim’s choices, then they may self-petition for support through VAWA.
The VAWA self-petition allows victims of elder abuse, child abuse or domestic violence to self-petition for lawful permanent resident status. They do not need to apply with the support of their spouses using this application.
Victims are also allowed to self-petition through VAWA if they are divorced or decide to divorce within two years of the petition. There must be a link between the divorce and the domestic violence for this to be approved.
VAWA self-petitioners may include:
- Children of abusive lawful permanent residents or citizens of the United States
- Spouses and former spouses of abusive citizens or LPRs
- Noncitizen spouses abused by an LPR or citizen parent
- Noncitizen parents of abused noncitizen children
It’s important to note that the self-petitioner will need to show their relationship with the abuser, be of good moral character and prove that they lived with the abusive party. The marriage must also have been in good faith if the abuser is a step-parent or spouse.
Applying to stay in the United States can be complex, especially when violence is involved. VAWA is just one option you may have to stay.