If you are living in the United States but do not have citizenship status yet, you may be relying on a close family member or spouse to help you stay in the country. Unfortunately, if that family member is physically and/or emotionally abusive, you may feel that there is nothing you can do because reporting the abuse may mean deportation.
However, in the U.S., federal law provides important protections for non-citizen immigrants who are the victims of domestic abuse under the Violence Against Women Act.
What is VAWA?
VAWA protections may apply to you if you are the child, the parent, or the current, former or intended spouse of a legal citizen or green card holder and that person has abused you physically and/or mentally.
Under VAWA, you may be able to apply for Green Card status and other types of immigration assistance without the consent, help or even the knowledge of your abusive relative or spouse.
Who is eligible for protection under VAWA?
You may ask for help under VAWA whether you are a woman or a man. However, to be eligible, you may need to prove certain facts to the court, including:
- You currently live with or used to live with the abusive relative.
- The relative has treated you with physical violence, threats of violence or severe mental abuse.
- You have acted with good moral character during your time in the U.S.
How else may VAWA help you?
VAWA may help you to escape an abusive situation, avoid immediate deportation and work toward full U.S. citizenship if you wish. In addition to access to a work permit, under VAWA you may be eligible for state and federal public assistance benefits to help to continue living and working in the U.S.