In Focus: The VAWA Act

Should I apply for a VAWA self-petition?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed in 1994 to protect victims of domestic and other instances of violence.  As part of the VAWA, abused spouses can file a self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residency in the United States.  Abused spouses may additionally have the option of seeking a U visa, which is a visa for the victims of serious crime.  Any immigrant in an abusive relationship who seeks to become a lawful permanent resident should consult with an immigration attorney to find out more about their visa options.

Qualifying to Self-Petition Through the VAWA?

The VAWA allows battered spouses and some children or parents to obtain a green card without needing the assistance of their abuser.  The VAWA allows both abused women and men to self-petition to obtain a green card.  To qualify for a VAWA self-petition, you must:

  • Be married to a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident who abused or battered you or abused your minor child; or
  • Be the child or stepchild of a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident who abused you (and you are single and under the age of 21); or
  • Be the parent of an adult child who is a lawful United States citizen and he or she battered or abused you.

Battered or abused spouses seeking relief under the VAWA will need to show that they entered into the marriage with good faith and that they lived together at some point.  If you already divorced the abusive spouse, you will need to demonstrate a connection between the divorce and the abuse.  Currently, the VAWA does not provide relief for long term significant others or those in civil unions.  You must be or have been married to file for a VAWA self-petition.

Victims of abuse who do not qualify for a VAWA self-petition could alternatively seek a U visa. U visas allow immigrants who are the victims of serious crime and who suffered physical or mental injuries due to the crime to remain in the U.S. if they will be of assistance to law enforcement agencies.  This type of visa does not require that you be married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.  However, only 10,000 U visas are granted annually. 

If you should have any questions or need more information about the way that the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Laws may impact you, your family, your friends or your colleagues, please contact the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers at the NPZ Law Group – VISASERVE – U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers by e-mailing us at or by calling us at 201-670-0006 (x107). You can additionally visit our Law Firm’s website at