How the VAWA Visa Program Works

How the VAWA Visa Program Works


If you came to America with high hopes for your marriage then things might feel especially tough when abuse makes it all fall apart. Not only did your spouse turn out to be anything but the partner of your dreams, but you now need to navigate your immigration status.

Fortunately, if you wish to remain in the United States but separate from your spouse, a VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) visa can help. This visa allows the abused spouse or child of a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), or an abused parent, to self-petition for lawful status. This will allow them to receive employment authorization status and to access public benefits. 

Domestic abuse is defined as:

  • Physical abuse and battering
  • Sexual assault or rape
  • Emotional or verbal abuse
  • Economic control
  • Psychological abuse
  • Intimidation
  • Isolation

Abusers sometimes use your immigration status to threaten you, but you have the power to take your immigration status into your own hands. You will need to fill out an I-360 petition to get started, and you will need to provide evidence you qualify for a visa under this program. 

Note: despite the name of the underlying law, men may also qualify for VAWA visas if they are an abused person. 

Evidence in a VAWA Visa Case

Evidence collection can be difficult in a VAWA case, which is why it’s so important to work closely with an immigration lawyer. Our office can help you deal with evidentiary gap in a way that USCIS will accept. We can also sometimes help ensure that your spouse, parent, or child releases evidence by issuing subpoenas. 

If at all possible, you’ll want to gather the following evidence:

  • Evidence of your spouse, parent, or child’s status as a US Citizen or LPR
  • Evidence of your relationship with your spouse, parent, or child
  • Documents proving you and the US Citizen or LPR shared a home
  • Evidence of abuse such as police records, medical records, or witness testimony
  • Affidavit of good moral character
  • Evidence your marriage began in good faith

Can VAWA be used to cancel removal proceedings? 

Yes. If you are facing removal, you can use VAWA as a form of relief if you qualify. Some abused spouses do not know this option is available to them and end up facing deportation. Fortunately, our law office can help. 

You need to have been physically present in the United States for three years, show good moral character, and show that removal would cause extreme hardship. You also must also prove that you are admissible or that you qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility. 

What happens if your petition is successful?

If your petition is successful, you will receive a green card. 

This means that in practice, the process of getting a VAWA visa is every bit as difficult as the process of getting any other visa, much as we’d all like for life to be easier for abuse victims.

If you need help, reach out to our law office to schedule an appointment. You don’t have to do this alone.

See also: 

Immigration for Victims of Human Trafficking

What Happens to Your LPR Status if You Get a Divorce

What Are the Most Common Defenses in Deportation Proceedings? 


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