VAWA Attorneys in Hollywood Informing Domestic Violence Victims of Their Options
It can be incredibly difficult to leave an abusive relationship if that person is who is sponsoring your immigration or has power over whether you could be deported back to your home country. But the Violence Against Women Act provides an option for those who are in these situations to be able to self-petition for a visa so that they can remain in the United States without needing a sponsoring spouse. Below, you can find information on who is eligible for VAWA, who can be included in your application, and what other options you may have if your petition is denied.
According to the National Coalition on Domestic Violence, around 33 percent of women and 25 percent of men have experienced some type of physical abuse in a relationship. And these numbers go even higher when you factor in instances of emotional, financial, and sexual abuse. If you are in an abusive relationship but are afraid to leave because it may affect your immigration status, our attorneys can help you understand whether a VAWA petition is an option and connect you with other resources and services.
Who Is Eligible Under VAWA?
To be eligible for VAWA, you have to meet eligibility requirements that involve having a qualifying relationship with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, living with the abuser, experiencing abuse during that relationship, and being otherwise admissible to the United States, such as being of “good moral character.” A qualifying relationship is usually a marital one, but VAWA also covers children who are being abused by a parent or a parent who is being abused by a child who is at least 21 years old.
In some cases, you may still be able to file a VAWA self-petition even if your spouse has died or lost their own citizenship status. To submit a VAWA petition, you need to be able to provide the qualifying relationship and the abuse, but the level of proof needed isn’t the same as for a criminal case. In some situations, your personal testimony or statements from friends or family members may be enough to be approved even if you don’t have other documentation, such as medical records or police reports.
What Types of Abuse Qualify?
To be able to file a VAWA self-petition, you must have suffered “battery or extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative during the qualifying relationship.” Battery is defined as the intentional act of striking or touching someone in a harmful manner, which means that physical abuse qualifies under VAWA. Sexual abuse would also qualify for the same reason. Emotional and financial abuse can be harder to prove but may also fall under the protections of VAWA because “extreme cruelty” doesn’t have to mean physical violence.
Domestic violence victims often downplay their abuse because “others have it worse” or “it wasn’t that bad,” so it’s important to understand that any type of abuse is unacceptable and undeserved. If you’re not sure whether your situation meets the requirements to be able to file a VAWA self-petition, the attorneys at Magilligan Law can provide more information and insight.
Is VAWA for Women Only?
Because it’s called the Violence Against Women Act, many people believe that VAWA is only for women, but this isn’t true. Men, as well as those who identify as nonbinary, can also submit a self-petition if they meet the criteria. In some cultures, it can be very difficult for men to come forward and expose that they are victims of domestic violence, but everyone deserves to feel safe in their homes and in their relationships.
Can I Include My Children on My Application?
A common reason that people stay in abusive relationships is that they are afraid of what will happen to their children or that they won’t be able to bring their children with them. But the VAWA process makes provisions for this. If you are submitting a VAWA petition because of spousal abuse, you are able to include any children who are under the age of 21 and who are not married in your petition. This means that your children are given the same classification and priority date that you are when your petition is approved and will also be able to apply for a Green Card.
What Other Options Do I Have If My Petition Is Denied?
When you are hoping to use a VAWA petition as a way out of an abusive relationship and the first step toward a new life, getting a denial letter is especially difficult. But it is possible to appeal. Your letter of denial will explain why the petition was denied and how and when you can appeal the decision. Take this letter to an immigration attorney who can help you start the appeals process or provide counsel on other options. If your appeal is also denied, or an attorney doesn’t believe it’s worth appealing, you can also file a new petition. VAWA petitions are commonly denied because of incorrect information or not enough proof of the relationship or abuse, and an attorney can be a valuable resource in helping you put together a stronger application for your next attempt.
The unfortunate reality of abuse is that it often escalates, which means it’s important to take action to free yourself as soon as possible. Call Magilligan Law at 954-866-8058 to find out if a VAWA petition can provide a way out for you and your children and what you need to start the process. Our attorneys can help you understand what you need to file the petition and guide you through the process of applying.