Virginia VAWA Immigration Lawyer

VAWA is the Violence Against Women Act. It was initially passed in 1994 and includes a number of provisions that protect victims of domestic abuse. It is called the Violence Against Women Act, but it also protects men. In the immigration context, it is a way that an undocumented individual can apply for legal status in the United States if he or she has been in a marriage to a United States citizen or a legal permanent resident, and suffered substantial harm because of spousal abuse. It is a way for people to self-petition, meaning that they are not going to be dependent on a spouse to apply for legal status in the United States. Anyone looking to apply for legal status through VAWA should consult with a Virginia VAWA immigration lawyer who can help them to understand, and guide them through the process.

Eligibility For a Visa Under VAWA

Someone is eligible to apply for a visa under VAWA if he or she:

  • Is present in the United States without status,
  • Is married to a United States citizen or a legal permanent resident, and
  • Has been physically, emotionally or sexually abused by his or her spouse such that he or she suffered substantial harm.

The courts can take a lot of different things into account when proving whether or not someone did in fact suffer from abuse, and it is helpful to work with a Virginia VAWA immigration attorney when trying to prove this point.

For Children and Parents

A child can apply for a visa if they have an abusive parent or step-parent who has legal status, but the child is undocumented. This comes into play a lot of times with step-parent relationships.

A child can also apply even if they are not the direct victim of abuse, but they are under 21 and the child of an abused person. For instance, if a mother is being abused and has children with her who are undocumented, they can apply as derivatives on her case rather than as victims themselves.

There is also one more category of people who can apply: parents of US citizens or legal permanent residents who are abused by their children. In those cases, the parent needs to prove the existing relationship and that they were abused by the child. Those cases are pretty rare. If an individual is unsure, they should consult with a Virginia VAWA immigration lawyer in order to determine eligibility.

Applying for Legal Permanent Resident Status

The VAWA application allows an individual to petition for themselves in the same category that they would have been allowed to petition if their spouse was not abusive and applied for them. If someone is married to a US citizen and that citizen was abusive to them, then they will be able to apply for legal permanent resident status at the same time they submit their VAWA application, which is filed on USCIS Form I-360. In the same package, they will need to prove that they were a victim of abuse, they were married to a US citizen and they are otherwise eligible for adjustment of status. An individual can be barred from both VAWA and from getting their green card if they have a serious criminal record themselves, if they have been abusive to other people, or are subject to a number of other grounds of inadmissibility.

Spouses of legal permanent residents are not immediately eligible to apply for their permanent resident status because they are not considered immediate relatives. They will have to wait through the line for visas just as they would if their legal permanent resident spouse applied for them directly. If they submit their VAWA application and it is approved, they will be assigned a priority date and will have to wait for that priority date to become current before they are eligible to apply for legal permanent residence.

Good Moral Character

Good moral character is another one of the requirements that a person needs to prove in order to be granted VAWA. A VAWA immigration lawyer in Virginia can be of assistance in providing the necessary evidence to prove good character. In order to prove good moral character, an individual needs to submit a police clearance report from every place that they have lived for six months or more. The second thing that someone needs to prove is that they do not have any criminal convictions that will statutorily bar them from proving good moral character. Additionally, an individual needs to submit discretionary evidence proving that they are a person of good moral character. They especially need to do this if they have any kind of criminal record, even if it does not statutorily bar them from proving good moral character. Evidence can include letters from friends, family, coworkers, bosses or people in the community who know them. These people can attest to general character as well as their behavior as part of the community. They might show that the individual has attended school or otherwise done things positively in their life. Basically, an individual can submit any evidence that shows that they are a good person.