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I. WHAT IS vawa?

VAWA, which stands Violence Against Women was enacted to improve community-based responses to domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of abuse against married spouses.


If you are an abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or resident, you may be eligible for certain benefits such as the ability to “self-petition”. The abused spouse can apply for VAWA by herself without relying on her husband during the legal process. In addition, while the VAWA petition is pending, the abused spouse will be eligible for work authorization, may not have to leave the country and be protected from deportation. Below, is the simplified process of filing VAWA.

III. Process Overview of VAWA

  1. File Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant) at the Vermont Service Center (VSC) with supporting documents proving requirements are met.

  2. USCIS will review your application and send a “Notice of Prima Facie Eligibility” which you can use to obtain government aid, such as Medicare, Title IV Federal Student Financial Aid, and Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy (“SRO”)

  3. If application is approved, USCIS will send an “Approval Notice” and a “Notice of Deferred Action” (if requested). Deferred action refers to applicant coming illegally, but USCIS will likely not deport you due to pending VAWA petition.

  4. You may be able to “adjust status”, allowing you to apply for permanent residency while in the U.S. Adjustability may be done if your immigrant visa becomes available, but speed depends on status of your spouse (U.S. citizen vs. permanent residents).

III. self-petitioning for victims

Victims can self-petition if they meet some of the following requirements below:

  1. Abuser must be U.S. citizen or permanent resident (“green card holder”)

  2. You were abused by spouse during marriage (Note: You do not have to be married to your abuser during time of filing VAWA petition)

  3. You were subjected to “battery” or “extreme cruelty” by spouse (Includes: threats, hitting, slapping, emotional abuse, forced sex, threatening to abducting your children, controlling where you go, forcibly detaining you, threatening deportation)

  4. You lived with your abuser for some time (Note: You do not have to live with your abuse now or when petition is submitted)

  5. You married your spouse in “good faith”-not for immigration status or other legal benefits

  6. You have “good moral character”-didn’t commit any crimes or violate any immigration laws, other than coming to the U.S. illegally



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No Legal Advice is Intended: This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments.

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