The law allows a person who is married to or who is the child of a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident and who was subject to abuse to petition for himself or herself to become a permanent resident. This process allows an individual to leave an abusive relationship, or protect abused children from the abuser, and still seek immigration relief.
Relief under VAWA is available to foreign nationals who have been abused physically, sexually, or psychologically by a spouse or parent who is a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, or who are the parent of a child who was abused by the parent’s spouse who is a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident.
One of the eligibility requirements for relief under VAWA is that a self-petitioner must demonstrate that he/she is a person of good moral character. A VAWA-based self-petition will be denied or revoked if the record contains evidence that the self-petitioner lacks good moral character. The inquiry into good moral character focuses on the three years immediately preceding the filing of the self-petition, but the USCIS officer may investigate the self-petitioner’s character beyond the three-year period when there is reason to believe that the self- petitioner may not have been a person of good moral character during that time. A self-petitioner’s claim of good moral character will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the provisions of the relevant sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the standards of the average citizen in the community.
Individuals seeking permanent residence under VAWA first file a petition with USCIS to demonstrate they qualify for relief under VAWA. If they do, then they are eligible for work permission. Then, once a green card is available, based on their country of birth and whether the abuser was a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, they can apply to adjust status to lawful permanent residence.
Individuals who have been abused and would otherwise qualify for relief under VAWA but who are in removal (deportation) proceedings may be able to pursue permanent residence under VAWA in immigration court.