VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) Self-Petitions

Domestic violence victims who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents have two options available to them if they wish to stay in the country: U visas or VAWA self-petitions. This blog will focus on the process by which a non-citizen can apply for a green card through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). 

Who Qualifies?

While the perpetrator of domestic violence in a U visa case does not have to be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, that is not so for VAWA cases. To be eligible for protection under a VAWA visa, you must be the victim of “battery or extreme cruelty” that is committed by either:

  • A spouse, former spouse or parent who is a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
  • A son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen (victims of domestic violence from children who are Lawful Permanent Residents are generally not eligible to self-petition for VAWA)

If one of the above options applies to you, you must also prove to the USCIS that you have a good moral character. If you are a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by your spouse, you must also show that you entered the marriage in good faith and previously intended to build a life with your spouse or former spouse. Additionally, you must show a connection between your divorce and the abuse you suffered (if you are divorced). Another point to be aware of is that you and your spouse must have lived together at some point. This can be used to show that your marriage was entered in good faith. 

The VAWA Process

To begin the process of receiving an adjustment of status and getting your green card through VAWA, you must submit Form I-360. This form is used for several different types of petitioners, but your official designation will be “Battered Spouse, Child or Parent of U.S. Citizen.” When you submit the form to the USCIS, you will also need to submit the applicable fees. 

After you have completed and submitted your petition, you should receive a notice from the USCIS that it has received your application. The agency may request additional documentation or an in-person interview. There is no guarantee that you will be accepted or of the total time needed to process, but you can expect around two years for everything to finalize (and for you to be granted a green card). This is a fraction of the time needed for a U visa. 


Every case involving someone who is seeking a green card or citizenship in the U.S. is an emotional process, but we recognize that VAWA cases take on an extra importance and added sensitivity. RelisLaw is dedicated to helping anyone navigate the U.S. immigration system and reach their ultimate goal. Our firm offers free 10-minute calls to prospective clients; call us at 1-800-514-4290 to get started today.

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We help people from around the world to live and work freely in the U.S., to achieve their dreams, unite families, or escape persecution. No matter what immigration service you need, RelisLaw will provide caring and dependable counsel to you and aggressive advocacy to vigorously fight for you using every available legal avenue. As a global firm, we work with people in countries around the world. We meet clients across the U.S., as well as in New York, Toronto, and Montréal. We also meet with clients globally, located in any country, via Skype and other platforms.