The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) extends green cards to foreign domestic violence victims for free and without the abuser’s knowledge. In order to qualify for VAWA protection in Nevada, the victim must be either the abuser’s (1) spouse or ex-spouse, (2) child, or (3) parent. The abuser must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, but it does not matter whether the victim is male or female.
Below our Las Vegas VAWA attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about how non-citizen domestic abuse victims can obtain immigrant status in the U.S. Click on a topic to go directly to that section.
- 1. Can I stay in the U.S. under VAWA?
- 2. Can I apply for VAWA in secret?
- 3. How do I get VAWA protection?
- 4. How long does it take to get green cards through VAWA?
- 5. What does it cost to get VAWA protection?
- 6. Is VAWA successful?
For information on other ways to obtain lawful immigration status in the U.S., see our articles on asylum, temporary protected status, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Child Status Protection Act, and provisional unlawful presence waivers.
- The abuser is a U.S. citizen or has a green card, and
- The victim is either the spouse, ex-spouse, child, or parent of the abuser
Note that while VAWA has the word “women” directly in the title, both males and females may apply for protection.
VAWA for Spouses:
An abuse victim may file for him/herself if he/she currently is or was married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. In this circumstance, he/she may include any unmarried children under the age of 21 on the petition if the children have not already filed for themselves.
If the individual is not currently married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser, he/she must be able to prove:
- That his/her marriage to the abuser has ended because of death or through divorce (related to the abuse) within two (2) years before filing the application; or
- That the spouse either lost or renounced citizenship or permanent residency status within two (2) years before filing due to an incident of domestic violence; or
- That he/she honestly believed that he/she was married to the abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, but the marriage was void because of the bigamy of the abusive spouse.
In addition, the applicant must also show:
- That he/she has suffered abuse in the U.S. by his/her U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse; or
- That he/she suffered abuse by his/her U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse abroad while the spouse was employed by the U.S. government or a member of the U.S. uniformed services; or
- That he/she is the parent of a child who suffered abuse from the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse.
Furthermore, the applicant must also be able to show that he/she entered into the marriage in good faith, that he/she has cohabitated with his/her spouse, and that he/she is a person of good moral character.
VAWA for Children:
In order for a child victim to be eligible for protection under VAWA, the following must be true:
- that he/she is under 21 years old,
- that he/she is not married, and
- that he/she has suffered abuse by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent.
An exception to the age requirement is if the child:
- is between the 21- and 25-years old, and
- can show that the abuse was the primary reason for the filing delay.
If the child-applicant is over 14 years old, he/she must show that he/she is a person of good moral character.
VAWA for Parents:
A person can self-petition to immigrate to the U.S. if he/she is the parent of a child who suffered abuse by the applicant’s U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. This petition may include names of other children that may or may not have suffered abuse, if they have not previously filed for themselves.
A person can also file under this category if he/she is the parent of a U.S. citizen, and he/she has suffered abuse by a U.S. citizen son or daughter. In addition, he/she must have evidence that he/she is of good moral character.1
Yes. Victims can seek relief through VAWA in secret so their abusers never find out. This policy allows victims to find safety as well as become independent from their abusers.2
The battered spouse, child, or parent files a “self-petition” using Form I-360. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may request additional information and documentation from the applicant. If the individual’s application is approved, he/she will be deemed to have legal permanent residence in the United States, and he/she can remain in the country lawfully provided he/she abide by the relevant immigration laws.3
Note that Nevada has two immigration offices that offer fingerprinting services: Las Vegas immigration office, and Reno immigration office. Note that if the USCIS denies a VAWA petition, the victim may appeal within 33 days of receiving the rejection.
Usually 5 months.
There is no fee.
Yes. VAWA is federal law focused on ending violence against women as well as revising both social practices and laws that previously promulgated violence against women. This law was originally passed in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 in order to provide protection to battered immigrant spouses. Statistics show that VAWA is making a big impact across the United States. Per a national census:
- In one 24-hour period, local domestic violence programs provided emergency shelter, transitional housing, supportive counseling, advocacy or other services to more than 67,000 victims.
- Over 90% of the 3,410 survivors participating in the national study reported that they felt safer, more hopeful, and had more safety strategies after visiting a shelter.
- Rape survivors were 59% more likely to file a police report than if these types of programs were not enacted.
VAWA aims to end violence against women and girls by:
- Directing the Department of State and USAID to develop a comprehensive multi-sectoral strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence;
- Integrating efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls as part of U.S. foreign assistance programs including health, education, economic growth, legal reform, political participation, social norm change, humanitarian assistance, and foreign security training, among others;
- Supporting overseas non-governmental and community-based organizations working to end violence against women and girls; and,
- Ensuring uniform data collection and accountability measures are in place to track investments in programs that address gender-based violence.
The reason why VAWA is so important for women, as opposed to men, is because the statistics show that women are far more at risk for violence than men.
- Nearly one in five women have been raped in their lifetime as opposed to one out of every 71 men.
- One in four women has experienced severe physical violence while that number changes to one in seven for men.
- Women are more than four times as likely to be beaten than men.
- One in six women has been stalked in their lifetime as opposed to one out of every 19 men.
VAWA includes landmark protections for women in areas ranging from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking that attempts to help save lives and hold offenders accountable in a cost-saving and effective manner. VAWA holds rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties, helps victims by mandating that they are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams, and keeps victims safe by requiring a victim’s protection order be recognized in all states within the U.S.
Need a Nevada immigration attorney?
If you or a loved one needs information related to VAWA or other immigration policies, contact our Las Vegas NV immigration attorneys who have experience with the law and understand the process. Call for a consultation.