Enacted in 1994 and amended in 1996 and 2000, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides immigration relief for some abused noncitizens who stay in abusive relationships because their abusive spouse hold a vital key to their status in the United States. VAWA provides two principal ways for abused spouses and children of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain permanent resident status. The first way is for foreign nationals to self-petition under INA §204. This option is best for those who are not in removal proceedings. The second way is through VAWA suspension of deportation and VAWA cancellation of removal; these options are for those who are already in removal proceedings.

Under VAWA’s major provision, an abused spouse or child of a USC or LPR can self-petition for lawful status in the U.S. Once a self-petition is approved, the self-petitioner will not be deported, will be qualified to work legally in the U.S. and receive pretty much the same government aid that lawful LPRs do. Under an additional provision, special rules make it easier for an abused spouse or child of a USC or LPR to qualify while in removal proceedings for cancellation of removal. Cancellation of removal is only for people who are in immigration court and there is a danger that an immigration judge might remove (deport) them from the U.S.

The most common problems that we encounter with foreign nationals who want to apply for VAWA is that either the they have not reported the abuse and/or sought medical attention related to the abuse (and therefore do not have the crucial evidence to present) or have a criminal record themselves (for example getting a conviction for simple assault even though the abuser committed the harm). We worked with these clients to provide the required documentation to address these issues and ultimately obtained approvals. These cases are extremely complicated and it is highly advisable to retain a knowledgeable and experience attorney.

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Please be sure to provide a timeline of events along with details of your entire immigration history.