Domestic violence can devastate the lives of everyone involved. And if you’re an immigrant facing domestic violence, you may be especially confused and unsure of where to turn. It’s important to know that you have rights. A skilled Columbus OH VAWA attorney can help you use the protections of the Violence Against Women Act so that you are able to live free of your abuser. Call Nesbit Law Office today for a consultation.
What Is VAWA?
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) gives noncitizens who are the victims of extreme cruelty or battery by a family member a way to obtain lawful permanent residency in the United States. VAWA allows the battered person to self petition for residency in a manner that the abuser does not know about the VAWA petition.
Originally passed in 1994, the federal law was updated in 2000 with the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act. These laws, collectively referred to as VAWA, were reauthorized in 2005 and 2013.
Although the process is called a “self petition,” it’s best to work with a VAWA attorney who can guide you through the process. There are many legal documents you must complete, as well as evidence you must submit regarding your abuse.
Who Is Eligible Through VAWA?
VAWA addresses people who may be the spouse, immediate relative, or dependent of a U.S. citizen or lawful resident. Such a person may apply for their own green card instead of waiting for the U.S. citizen to do so for them. In order to be eligible for a VAWA green card, you must be:
- Suffering from abuse by a spouse who is a legal resident or U.S. citizen;
- A child of someone who is suffering abuse by a spouse who is a legal resident or U.S. citizen; or
- A child who is suffering abuse by a parent or guardian who is a legal resident or U.S. citizen.
VAWA specifically names women as a target of the Act. However, men and children may also apply for a green card with a VAWA petition. For example, if a man is suffering abuse by his husband who is a legal resident of citizen, then the abused man can apply under VAWA. Similarly, if a woman is abusing her children, then her husband may apply for protection for the children under VAWA.
Criteria for Eligibility Under VAWA
Other criteria for eligibility to apply for a VAWA green card include:
- Good Faith Marriage. You must have entered into your marriage with the abuser in good faith. You cannot have been simply trying to bypass citizenship requirements.
- Abuse Evidence. You must prove that you have suffered cruelty or battery. This may include medical reports or eye witness testimony. Your testimony about the abuse will also be considered.
- Requirement of Residency. You must show that you and your children, if applicable, actually lived with the abuser.
Your Character Can Impact Your VAWA Petition
It’s important to note that when you apply for a VAWA green card, the government will review your own conduct as well. If you were arrested within the last three years, they will consider that in your case. They will consider whether you have “good moral character.” That is a standard that means you have abided by the law. Immigration law considers certain criminal offenses to be “crimes of moral turpitude” and may make you ineligible under VAWA. Those include:
- Drug crimes
- Gambling offenses
- Vile or depraved acts
Even if these crimes are misdemeanors, they can make you ineligible for a VAWA green card. However, if there is evidence that you committed these crimes in the past, you may be able to show you:
- Have reformed;
- Completed drug or alcohol rehab; or
- Are no longer a threat to commit these acts.
When submitting evidence through a petition, an attorney can help you prove that you are rehabilitated or no longer a threat to society. It’s best to have an attorney who can present the necessary evidence, which would include testimony from community leaders, religious leaders, and educators as well as proof of rehab.
VAWA Application Process
In order to apply for a green card under VAWA, you must first submit a petition. You can access this online or in paper format. You will receive a notice within two weeks of submitting your petition, and the court will make a determination about whether your petition is complete. They will be deciding whether you meet all the basic criteria. In the alternative, the court may request that you submit additional evidence. Once the court approves your VAWA application, you can begin seeking a green card.
A VAWA attorney can help you with:
- Filing your initial petition
- Ensuring you have all the evidence necessary to prove your case
- Responding to court requests for additional evidence
After you’ve endured abuse from someone you love, you should not also have to navigate the legal process of obtaining a VAWA green card. Instead, work with a Columbus OH VAWA lawyer who can do the hard work for you.
What Happens If My VAWA Petition Is Approved?
If the court approves your petition, you can apply for a green card. However, if you are not married, you may be set to low status for removal from the U.S. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, your green card interview may be expedited.
Call a Columbus OH VAWA Lawyer for Help Today
VAWA provides protections for people who have suffered abuse or cruel behavior from a loved one. Call Nesbit Law Office to find out more.