Self-Petitions Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a law that was enacted by Congress in 1994. VAWA created a number of provisions that allow for battered noncitizens to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR status in the United States. The rationale behind these provisions is that, in an abusive relationship, immigration status can often become yet another tool the abuser can use to torment the noncitizen.

Ordinarily, when a noncitizen that is married to a US citizen or an LPR wants to become an LPR, their spouse must petition USCIS. VAWA modifies the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to allow noncitizens that are married to an abusive US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident to self-petition USCIS for LPR status.

When a noncitizen self-petitions for LPR status under VAWA, USCIS is forbidden from telling the abusive spouse that the petition has been made. Self-petitions can allow both the battered spouse and that spouse’s children to apply for permanent residency. As with many immigration-related topics, time is of the essence. For example, in the case of a battered noncitizen spouse of an LPR, there is a two-year window after the couple divorce during which the noncitizen can petition for LPR status.

The law in this area is complicated. If you would like to self-petition for LPR status under VAWA, it is important to speak to an immigration specialist so that they can guide you through the steps you need to take to file a self-petition. Contact the Hacking Law Practice today by filling out our online contact form or by calling us at 314-961-8200.