VAWA Green Cards

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), provides immigration benefits to victims of abusive U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents. These benefits may extend to the spouse, parents, and children of the abuser. Under the Act, certain foreign nationals do not have to rely on the abuser to obtain lawful U.S. status, and may self-petition for a green card.

Despite the name, this Act equally covers male or female petitioners. 

The requirements for a VAWA Green Card are set out below. Petitioners must provide official documents and statements to prove the following:

1. The Abuser Must Be/Was a U.S. Citizen (USC) or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)

You may still apply if the abuse occurred before the abuser became a citizen or green cardholder. Also, if the abuser has lost their permanent residence or citizenship, you may still apply – time restrictions may apply.

2. You Are/Were the Spouse or Child of a USC or LPR Abuser or Parent of a USC Abuser

VAWA green cards may be obtained by the spouse (or ex-spouse) and children of USCs and LPRs, and also, by the parents of USCs whose abusive children were at least 21 years old at the time of the abuse. 

Unmarried children (under 21) may be included in their parent’s spouse (or ex-spouse) VAWA self-petition. 

3. The Abuse or Battery Occurred During the Relationship

The self-petitioner must show that they were abused or subject to cruelty by the USC or  LPR.  The Abuse does not need to be physical violence, and a police report is not required. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes emotional abuse, threats to harm or deport you, controlling behaviors, forcible detention, and other such behaviors to be “extreme cruelty.”

The entire circumstances of the relationship will be considered in determining whether abuse, battery or extreme cruelty have taken place.  

4. Spouses Must-Have Entered the Marriage in Good Faith

‘Good faith’ means that the relationship was genuine and not based on obtaining a green card. 

5. Petitioner Must Reside in the U.S. 

Although there are a few exceptions, the petitioner should live in the U.S. Unless the abuser is a member of the armed services, or is an employee of the U.S. government, or if the abuse occurred in the United States. 


6. The Petitioner Must Have Lived With the USC or LPR Abuser

Although VAWA doesn’t specify a length of time, the petitioner should have spent some time living in the same residence as the abuser. 

7. The Petitioner Must Be a Person of Good Moral Character

You must be a person of good moral character for the past three years. Some things that will hinder your petition are: 

  • Criminal history 
  • Drug use 
  • Illegal gambling
  • Lying under oath
  • Habitual drunkenness 
  • Abuse of others

Brudner Law in Irvine is experienced in handling a wide range of immigration matters. The process can be stressful, but we are here to help.  Contact us online or at 714 794 9366 today.


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