The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal law enacted in 1994 to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes. The act also provides certain immigration benefits for foreign-born victims of abuse. The protections are important for many foreign nationals who may otherwise be afraid to report the abuse, may not have the necessary documentation to remain in the United States, or feel coerced into staying in an abusive relationship.
What Is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)?
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal law passed in 1994 to respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other intimate-partner offenses. It is up for renewal every 5 years. Each reauthorization expands on existing protections, providing much-needed resources and programs for foreign-born victims of abuse.
VAWA reauthorizations have created funding for victim services, increased support for marginalized groups, and improved responses to sexual violence. These measures are for addressing the effects of domestic and intimate partner abuse. Thanks to VAWA – and its periodic reauthorizations – many foreign-born relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) have found paths out of cycles of abuse towards meaningful lives free from fear or harm.
What Does the Violence Against Women Act Do?
Through VAWA, foreign-born abuse victims can apply for immigration status through a self-petition process without the assistance or knowledge of their U.S. citizen or LPR abusive relative.
The process for seeking immigration status requires the victim to fill out Form I-360. They must also submit the necessary evidence to prove that they have or had a qualifying relationship with their abuser.
The petitioner must provide proof of the following:
- Their relative's status as a U.S. citizen or LPR
- A qualifying relationship – examples of supporting documents include a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or birth certificate
- Current or former cohabitation with the abuser – supporting documents can include rental agreements, deeds, utility bills, and tax forms
- Abuse – documents that can be used to verify this include police or court reports, medical records, school records, or statements from social workers
- Good moral character – the petitioner must show that they are honest, truthful, reliable, and free from criminal conduct
- Good faith marriage (if the petitioner is a spouse of an abusive U.S. citizen or LPR) – ways to demonstrate this include providing joint property leases, income tax forms, bank statements, and evidence of a dating relationship
Who Is Eligible for Protection Under VAWA?
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted to offer protection to foreign-born individuals who have experienced physical abuse or extreme cruelty from a U.S. citizen or LPR.
Abuse or extreme cruelty can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Violent acts
- Sexual abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Economic abuse
Both men and women may qualify for protection through VAWA if they have an eligible relationship with the perpetrator.
Eligible relationships include the following:
- Spouses of abusive U.S. citizens or LPRs – the individual may also petition if their child was the one subject to abuse. Additionally, they can petition for their children under 21 years of age.
- Children of abusive U.S. citizen or LPR parents if the child is under 21 years of age and unmarried
- Parents of abusive U.S. citizen or LPR children 21 years of age or older
Ultimately, VAWA is an important program that provides foreign-born survivors of domestic violence security from their abuser.
Get Legal Help with Your Case
The Violence Against Women Act has been a vital piece of legislation in the United States for over two decades, helping to protect foreign nationals from abuse by their U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident spouses or partners, parents, or children. If you are a foreign national and find yourself in an abusive relationship with a U.S. citizen or LPR, you may be eligible for protection under VAWA. We urge you to reach out for help.
For more information on how to apply for protection under VAWA, please contact our Miami team at Hubbs Law Firm by calling (305) 570-4802.