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Abused Spouses and Children of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents - VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)

Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), spouses and children of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residence. The immigration provisions of VAWA allow certain battered immigrants to file for immigration relief without the abuser's assistance or knowledge, in order to seek safety and independence from the abuser. To be eligible to file a self-petition (an application that you file for yourself for immigration benefits) you must qualify under one of the following categories:

  • Battered Spouse married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Unmarried children under the age of 21 may be included in your petition as derivative beneficiaries;
  • Parent of a child who has been abused by your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse during the marriage. Your children (under 21 years of age and unmarried), including those who may not have been abused, may be included on your petition as derivative beneficiaries; or
  • Battered Child, under 21 years of age and unmarried, who has been abused by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent.

 To be eligible, the self-petitioning spouse must

  • be legally married to the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident batterer. A self-petition may be filed if the marriage was terminated by the abusive spouse’s death within the two years prior to filing. A self-petition may also be filed if the marriage to the abusive spouse was terminated, within the two years prior to filing, by divorce related to the abuse.
  • have been battered in the United States, unless the abusive spouse is an employee of the United States government or a member of the uniformed services of the United States;
  • have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage, or must be the parent of a child who was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse during the marriage.
  • be a person of good moral character;
  • have entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.

To be eligible, the self-petitioning child must

  • qualify as the child of the abuser as a "child" is defined for immigration purposes.

Widow(er) of a U.S. Citizen

Generally when the petitioner dies, the petition is legally considered to die as well. However, there are situations when USCIS will agree, based upon humanitarian considerations, to let the case continue. There are also special provisions for widowed spouses to apply on their own if they were married for at least two years before the spouse's death.

Please give us a call at 941-362-7100 to discuss the requirements for the VAWA or widow self-petition  in more detail. Each individual situation is very unique, and we assure you that Anthony Olson, P.A. will handle your case with utmost discretion and confidentiality.