The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted to improve the criminal justice system and community-based responses to domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of abuse against married spouses. Thus, if you are a victim of mental, physical, emotional, and/or economic abuse by your US citizen or resident spouse, then you may be eligible for VAWA’s benefits as a self-petitioner. As a self-petitioner, you do not have to rely on your spouse to help you apply for VAWA. You can petition for VAWA yourself or with the help of an attorney. Below are some of the requirements to self-petition.
Your abuser must be a US citizen or or permanent resident (also known as “green card holder”).
You were abused by your spouse during your marriage. But note that you do not have to be married to your abuser at the time of filing your VAWA petition if your marriage ended because of the abuse within two years before you file your VAWA petition.
You were subject to “battery” or “extreme cruelty” by your spouse. Note that “battery” or “extreme cruelty” includes threats, hitting, slapping, emotional abuse, forced sex, threatening to take away your children, controlling where you go, forcibly detaining you, threatening to have you deported, etc.
You lived with your abuser for some time. Note that you do not have to be living with your abuser now, or when your petition is submitted.
You got married to your abusive spouse in “good faith,” which basically means that you did not get married to avail of immigration or other legal benefits.
You have “good moral character,” which basically means that you did not commit certain crimes or violate any immigration laws (other than coming to the US illegally).
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