VAWA I-360: Violence against Women Act Self Petitions

By Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.

The immigration and Nationality Act (INA) was amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to allow a battered spouse, child, or parent to apply for an immigrant visa petition for themselves. The VAWA provisions apply to both men and women equally and the petition is filed without the abuser’s knowledge.

A spouse may file for themselves if they were or are the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. A spouse may also file as an abused spouse if their child has been abused by the U.S. citizen spouse or permanent resident spouse. In addition, a spouse may include in their petition any of their unmarried children who are under the age of 21 and have not filed a petition for themselves. A spouse is required to show:

  • A qualifying spousal relationship
  • The spouse suffered battery or extreme cruelty by their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse
  • The marriage was entered into in good faith
  • The couple lived together
  • The petitioner is a person of good moral character

A parent may file for themselves if they are the parent of a U.S. citizen and have been abused by the U.S. citizen’s child. A parent must show:

  • A qualifying parent/child relationship
  • The parent suffered battery or extreme cruelty by their U.S. citizen child
  • The parent had lived with the abusive child
  • The petitioning parent is a person of good moral character

A child may file for themselves if they are an abused child under the age of 21 and unmarried. The child must have been abused by their U.S. citizen parent or permanent resident parent. If a child is over the age of 21 but under the age of 25, they may still apply for themselves as a child if they can show that the abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing. A child is required to show:

  • A qualifying parent/child relationship
  • The child suffered battery or extreme cruelty by their U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent
  • The child had lived with the abusive parent
  • The petitioning child is a person of good moral character

The petitioning spouse, child, or parent must submit a completed Form I-360 along with all of their supporting documents. The whole petition should be filed with USCIS. If the I-360 is approved the individual may apply for work authorization to work in the U.S. and may be eligible to apply for a green card.  This provision allows victims of abuse to not have the additional burden and tragedy of worrying about their status after already being traumatized by an abusive relative. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of abuse, please do speak to a well-versed immigration attorney to find out if protections under VAWA are available as a self-petitioner.

Image courtesy of (Image Courtesy: Prizant Law)

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