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If you have been the victim of battery or extreme cruelty, it is in your best interest to know what the VAWA visa is in the United States and here you will learn everything you need to know about it.

The New Jersey immigration lawyers at Curbelo Law specialize in all types of immigration cases. Among others, they will be able to help you determine the different types of U. S. visas you require in order to travel to the United States.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2024

The VAWA visa is one of the most recommended paths if you are a victim of extreme cruelty or battery. In this blog we tell you how to be eligible for a VAWA visa, its process and requirements.

In short, this visa is a way to get a Green Card in the United States in circumstances of battery or extreme cruelty, as it protects all those attacked by an American citizen or permanent resident, be it:

  • Spouse.
  • Ex-spouse
  • Parent.
  • Son or daughter.

In our crimmigration section we talk about cases where the areas of criminal defense and immigration meet. It will help you understand why it is important to have experienced attorneys by your side with deep knowledge in both areas.

What Is VAWA?

The term VAWA comes from the Violence Against Women Act passed by the US Congress in 1994. VAWA allows legal immigration status for all victims of battery or extreme cruelty. 

VAWA self-petitions allow close family members of US citizens and permanent residents who are victims of abuse or domestic violence to apply for a legal immigration status on their own. The way this immigration law worked was as follows:

  1. American citizens (USC) and lawful permanent residents (LPR) had to file a petition with USCIS to initiate the legal status process of the family member (spouse, child or parent) victim of domestic violence. 
  2. The USC or LPR relative controlled the entire process until the abused relative could obtain their own legal permanent residence (obtaining a Green Card). 
vawa visa for battery or extreme cruelty

However, VAWA changed the entire procedure, allowing victims of battery and extreme cruelty to achieve legal status without the need for a USC or LPR family member to participate in the process. This is known as the VAWA Self-Petition.

You may also be interested in reading about the process to obtain American citizenship.

Requirements To Apply For VAWA

In order to apply for VAWA, you will need to meet the minimum requirements to be eligible for this Violence Against Women Act status. This law does not require the approval of your spouse or other relative. The requirements are:

  • Victims of domestic violence or abuse can be men or women.
  • Individuals under the age of 21 who are single and have been victims of domestic abuse can file a VAWA petition on their own.
  • The law also protects parents of American citizens and permanent residents from abuse or mistreatment suffered by their children.
  • Victim spouses of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident can include their unmarried children under the age of 21 on the VAWA petition.

You may be interested in reading about family-based immigration petitions to bring relatives to the United States to learn more about how to petition to bring your loved ones to the US.

Fathers And Mothers

The requirements for VAWA parental eligibility require applicants to demonstrate that they have been the victims of cruel treatment or some type of abuse by their American citizen or lawful permanent resident child.

Applicants (parents) must have lived in the same house as the abuser, and they must also show that the abused son or daughter:

  • Is an American citizen or lawful permanent resident and 21 years of age or older.
  • Was at least 21 years old when he passed away.
  • Resigned or lost US citizenship due to a conviction of violence.

Although VAWA protects immediate family members who are victims of abuse by citizens or permanent residents, it can also protect beneficiaries of the NACARA Program.


Mothers can request a VAWA petition on behalf of the child, however this will not always be possible. The law allows children under the age of 21 to apply for a VAWA visa for themselves. To qualify:

  • The father or mother must have abused or assaulted the child.
  • They must be the child of an American citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States.
  • Possesses good moral character.
  • They must have lived with the abusive parent.

Those under the age of 13 are only required to show a good moral character, but kids between the ages of 14 and 21 are required to submit a clean criminal record. 

Special immigrant juvenile status

Minors are also at risk of some form of domestic abuse or mistreatment and they may also choose to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in the United States.


Current or former spouses (wives and husbands) of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident can submit a VAWA application. For this, they need to meet the following requirements:

  • Being married to an abusive citizen or lawful permanent resident. 
  • Being divorced, widowed or that the marriage has ended by annulment within the last 2 years.
  • People who were under an illegal marriage and were cheated on by an American citizen or permanent resident.

In general, it is possible to avoid falling into a fraudulent marriage by marriage-based Green Card interviews, which prevents the K-1 fiancé(e) visa from being used for illegal purposes. 

Abusive spouses can lose citizenship or lawful permanent residence (their Green Card) for a charge of domestic violence. 

In order for USCIS to determine that you may be eligible for a VAWA petition, you must:

  • Be in a legal marital relationship. In other words, your marriage should not be fraudulent one or made with the only purpose to obtain immigration benefits.
  • Submit any evidence of abuse or mistreatment against the son or daughter. In general, these evidences are shown with photographs, police reports, witnesses and other elements.
  • You must be a person of good moral character with a clean a criminal record. 

Green Card Eligibility As A VAWA Self-Petitioner

You may become eligible to obtain a Green Card by self-petitioning VAWA, it will simply require meeting the following conditions:

You can learn more in our section on post-conviction relief for immigration purposes.

We remind you that you are eligible to receive an immigrant visa based on:

  • An approved VAWA self-petition along with Form I-485.
  • An approved VAWA self-petition (Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow (er) or Special Immigrant).
  • A pending VAWA self-petition that you previously filed.

Adjustments Of Status Bans 

As we mentioned earlier, the adjustment of status vetoes in the United States will not apply to your VAWA case. These vetoes depend on how you entered the United States or if you committed any violation of United States immigration law.

If you did any of these things, then you are prohibited from adjusting your status, however, VAWA petitioners and beneficiaries are exempt from vetoes.

how to legally enter the united states

You may be interested in knowing the how to legally enter the United States and thus avoid any type of inconvenience with immigration laws. 

What Documents To Submit To Apply For The VAWA Visa?

If you filed a Form I-360 as a VAWA self-petitioner, you will be known as a “main applicant” when you file Form I-485. Therefore, you will need to submit the following documents:

How To Submit A VAWA Application?

If you are in the United States and meet all the requirements, you must submit Form I-360 in order to obtain a Green Card. 

  • If you are a VAWA self-petitioner and wish to adjust your status as an immediate relative, you will need to file Form I-485 at any time as there will always be a visa number available for immediate family members.
  • If you are a VAWA self-petitioner and wish to adjust your status under the family-based category, you will have to wait for an immigrant visa to become available to you.
  • If a visa is available to you, you will need to file Form I-485 alongside Form I-360, while Form I-360 is pending or after it is approved. 
  • If you have a pending Form I-485 based on Form I-130 filed by an abusive relative, you can request a Form I-485 based on your VAWA self-petition.
requirements to apply for vawa

In order to make this request, the local USCIS office must be notified that Form I-485 is pending and done within 30 days. Additionally, you must provide the USCIS office with a secure address where all present notifications will be sent. 

  • If you do not submit evidence that you filed a VAWA self-petition within 30 days of requesting a Form I-485 modification, USCIS may make a decision on the pending Form I-130 application.
  • If USCIS approves the VAWA self-petition, you will become a lawful permanent resident based on the VAWA self-petition and not on the Form I-130 that you originally filed.

In case you are outside the United States, you will have to go through consular processing as a self-petitioner for VAWA.

The New Asylum Alternatives

The new asylum alternatives for Juvenile Visa (SIJ) for minors and VAWA visa for survivors of domestic violence:

  • Grant the right of recognition to the migrant community.
  • Promote the support and collaboration of institutions and legal asylum resources.
  • Welcome people through the rights of survivors of violence.
asylum process in usa

You can visit our article dedicated to the asylum process in the United States where you will find extensive information on this immigration relief.

Alternative Support Network

A close supportive environment and access to resources help survivors cope with trauma and move forward.

Domestic violence was previously considered a private crime and the institutions were not involved. Nowadays, Curbelo Law is one of those in charge of enforcing human rights through lawyers.

Can I Make A Report Even If I Don’t Have Papers?

You can make a report even if you are undocumented. By calling the police, you will have one more resource in your favor since there are witnesses with institutional power over your abuse. Only the fact of invalidating it or denying help to legalize your status, threaten and / or blackmailing you with the custody of children, is violence.

How Can I Fix My Papers If I Am A Victim Of Domestic Violence?

You must prove domestic violence so make sure you keep all kinds of police reports, photographs or documents in a safe place. The tests related to psychological and economic or patrimonial violence will be collected through the report with the team of legal assistants. 

Another alternative would be the U visa , which also includes victims of domestic violence, but is more related to crimes suffered within the territory. 

human trafficking and migrant smuggling

At Curbelo Law we have covered all kinds of topics related to abuse, trafficking and other crimes in articles such as “What is human trafficking and migrant smuggling” or the one related to the T visa requirements. We are very aware of the defense of human rights. If you have suffered any type of abuse, contact our team right now.

VAWA Visa And Cancellation Of Removal

The VAWA visa allows a cancellation of removal and therefore, to obtain benefits from this immigration relief. It can be used by a victim of domestic abuse who is already undergoing an open deportation process, for this they must:

  • Be married to an abusive spouse who is a US citizen or permanent resident or; 
  • Be the child of a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident parent or;
  • Being the parent of a child who is a US citizen or permanent resident.

Please note that:

  • Restrictions on how long you have for divorce or self-petitioning death will not apply to cancellation of removal.
  • The requirement to show that the marriage was performed in good faith will not apply. But it is important to show it because fraudulent marriages prevent acceptance of a cancellation of removal.

You must show that:

  • You have been in the United States with at least 3 of continuous presence.
  • You have been the victim of extreme abuse or battery by your citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent. These acts include:
    • Threat.
    • Violence.
    • Intimidation.
    • Degradation.
    • Labor abuse.
    • Sexual abuse
    • Social isolation.
    • Bullying.
    • Abuses related to immigration status.
    • Possessiveness.
  • You have been the victim and / or your parents or children will suffer severe physical and psychological harm if they are deported or;
  • It has been decided on a case-by-case basis, since there is no definition within the law to assess when a deportation causes serious or severe harm. But the following will be considered:
    • Ages of people who entered the U.S. and when they will be subject to Cancellation of Removal.
    • Age, immigration status of the person’s children and their number.
    • Health status of the individual, their children, the spouse and their parents.
    • The person’s ability to get a job in the country upon return.
    • Time of residence in the US.
    • Psychological impact of deportation.
    • Economic impact of deportation.
    • Impact on educational or academic opportunities. 
    • Number of relatives affected by illegality.
    • Your immigration history.
    • The political and economic conditions of the country to which you will return.

VAWA Immigration Attorneys In New Jersey

If you are looking for the advice or representation of immigration lawyers to process a VAWA visa application, the Latina attorney Carolina T. Curbelo can help you in these types of situations. 

With more than 10 years of experience in all types of immigration cases, we can represent you in a professional and personalized way from our offices in Ridgewood and Newark, New Jersey.

Call us today to speak with a team of US immigration law professionals.