Understanding VAWA: Deportation Relief for Victims of Abuse

Every day, thousands of men, women, and children are subjected to physical and emotional abuse at the hands of those they love. This traumatic situation is especially terrifying when the victim is an immigrant.

Immigrants are particularly vulnerable because their status in the United States is so tenuous. Many of them fail to report violent treatment for the same reason other victims stay silent: embarrassment, emotional manipulation, and fear of further abuse. They are also afraid that reporting their situation could jeopardize their status in the United States and even result in deportation.

The Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed in 1994 to curtail domestic violence. Although the title specifically references women, the Act funds and supports initiatives to prevent, investigate, and prosecute violent crimes against anyone—man, woman, or child. In 2013 it was updated to include special protection for immigrant victims of domestic violence.

The VAWA amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), allowing battered spouses, children, or parents of American citizens or permanent residents to file an immigration visa petition. The abuser is not informed about the VAWA application, so the victim can seek independence without fear of retaliation.

This measure gave hope to those trapped in abusive relationships with family members who tried to control them by withholding the immigration support needed for the green card application process.

Who Can File?

To be eligible for VAWA immigration relief, an applicant must fall into one of following categories of relationship to the abuser:

  • Spouse (one may file as an abused spouse if their child has been abused by their American or permanent resident spouse)
  • Parent
  • Child (must be under 21 and unmarried- those older than 21 but under 25 may file on their own if they prove that the delay in filing was abuse-related)

U Visas

Even those who are not married to or in a relationship with an American citizen or permanent resident can seek protection in the form of a U visa, which allows victims of crimes in the United States who fulfill certain criteria to legally remain and even work in the US for four years. After three years, a U-Visa holder can apply for a Green Card. No matter your background, circumstances, or location, nearly anyone can apply for a U-Visa.

Generally speaking, in order to satisfy the criteria to obtain a U-Visa, applicants must have been the victim of a crime in the US, been helpful to law enforcement in investigating or prosecuting the crime, and been harmed either mentally or physically by the crime.

Any immigrant who is currently in the United States and has been targeted for abuse by an American citizen or permanent resident can take action to protect themselves and/or their children without fear of immigration consequences. Additionally, anyone who has been the victim of a crime in the US could also potentially apply for U-Visa relief. Contact Sánchez-Roig Law Firm, P.A. today and let help you secure the rights and protection you deserve.