VAWA aka Violence Against Women

Hi my name is Patricia Barbee, I’m the managing attorney of the Immigration Department here at Bailey & Galyen, and I’m here to talk to you about Immigration Law today. Today I want to talk to you about one of the lesser known benefits of Immigration Law, that was designed by Congress to protect immigrants, who find themselves in a dangerous or abusive situation, who are perhaps married to a permanent resident or a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, some people do enter into marriage and find that things are not as they were promised, or as they hoped that they would be. Sometimes immigrants abandon status that they already have for marriage to a U.S. Citizen, and find themselves in a situation where they’re now out of status, and their spouse is using their lack of status to control them, or to be abusive to them knowing that this person will be afraid to report any kind of abuse, for lack of immigration status.

Congress created something called the Violence Against Women Act, to address many situations, but also particularly this one. It’s short, it’s called VAWA, Violence Against Women, it does not only apply to women, it applies to any spouse of a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident, who is being abused or mistreated emotionally or physically by that spouse. It can also protect children who are abused by a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident stepparent. And even, actually I believe it can apply to parents of an abusive U.S. Citizen or permanent resident who have no status. So, basically when a person marries a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident, that U.S. Citizen or permanent resident should set about filing a petition to immigrate their spouse. That’s called adjustment of status if it’s done here in the United States or Consular Processing if you have to go through the Consulate in your country. But, if that spouse is not cooperating and is not filing for you due to a desire to control or mistreat you, there is a remedy where if you, the abused spouse, without status, want to file for yourself, that’s available to you. So basically, you file a self-petition, an I-360 VAWA self-petition. And in this petition you document the mistreatment and abuse that you’ve received. Your word is sufficient, if you are convincing in your personal statement to immigration that can carry your burden and you can be approved. Of course it’s always better to have more evidence. If you have police reports, if you have letters from neighbors or friends who have witnessed mistreatment by your U.S. Citizen or permanent resident spouse, that’s always good to include.

The bottom line is though, you do not have to be held hostage or feel that you are kept captive to your abuser. There is a way out of the situation, and you need to seek counsel from an experienced Immigration attorney who has worked on these cases and knows exactly how to document them. And you may find yourself a couple years down the line, free of that abusive situation and with a green card. If you’d like to learn more about this, please call and make an appointment with me, at Bailey & Galyen, and I will explain all the details, and we can go from there. Thank you.