Overview of VAWA

The Violence Against Women Act (or VAWA) is legislation that provides many benefits for victims of domestic violence, including benefits outside immigration. It gives protection for victims of domestic violence who are abused by their U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) spouses. VAWA takes into account the unfortunate circumstances to which victims of domestic violence are subjected, given that they are often manipulated and abused by their U.S. Citizen or LPR spouses, who often threaten to withdraw their immigrant petitions or “call immigration.” VAWA allows such victims to “self-petition” for their permanent resident status.


Successful VAWA petitions must meet certain requirements:

  1. The marriage was between a U.S. Citizen or LPR and a foreign national

  2. the U.S. Citizen or LPR became abusive

  3. the foreign national entered the marriage in good faith, and not solely for immigration benefits

  4. the foreign national resided with his/her spouse

  5. the foreign national is a person of good moral character

Men and Women Are Protected

VAWA applies to both men and women, and it is important to know there is no shame in getting help for abuse by either a U.S. Citizen or LPR husband or wife. Despite the law’s name, male spouses and minor dependents are also permitted to use it to petition for legal status within the United States.

Types of Abuse

Abuse is not always physical. The Violence Against Women Act’s provisions are expansive and may be interpreted to protect against psychological or verbal abuse, as well as physical abuse. Abuse comes in many forms, and although it is more challenging, it is possible to be successful in a case where the victim suffers from verbal and emotional abuse, despite the lack of physical abuse.

When to File

A victim is eligible to file a petition due to spousal abuse if they are still married, or if the marriage to the abuser was terminated by death or a divorce (related to the abuse) within the 2 years prior to filing the petition.


The process of lodging a VAWA petition is confidential and can be done without the knowledge of the abusive spouse. Successful VAWA petitions may permit an abused spouse to maintain his or her legal status in the United States without fear of repercussions from his or her abuser.

If you are a victim of any kind of abuse at the hands of your spouse, call us now to get the help you need for your safety and immigration protection. 

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