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Victims of abuse can seek immigration classification

The normal process for filing for immigration status for families is that a lawful resident or U.S. citizen must file the petition for the family members. However, this can be an issue for abuse victims who are seeking immigrant classification.

The Violence Against Women Act allows these victims to self-petition to become legal permanent residents. To do so, there are certain eligibility requirements the individual must meet.

Information about the Violence Against Women Act

Originally passed in 1994, and reauthorized in 2022, the Violence Against Women Act provides a variety of support and services for victims of sexual assault, domestic or dating violence and stalking. The National Network to End Domestic violence discusses some of the elements of the Act:

  • Provides housing protections
  • Increases access to short-term and emergency housing
  • Provides legal assistance resources
  • Provides programs for prevention
  • Provides resources for criminal response alternatives

Eligibility requirements to self-petition

Another benefit that VAWA provides is immigration assistance for victims. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services states that to be eligible for self-petition, the one filing the petition must be an abused spouse, abused child or abused parent of a permanent resident. This individual must have experienced abuse or extreme cruelty while in the relationship with the abuser, have lived, or currently live, with the abuser and be of good moral character.

If the relative filing the petition lives in a different country, he or she must prove that the abusive citizen is a member of the U.S. armed services or works for the U.S. government, or the abuse occurred while in the United States. Those able to provide proof of all requirements can then fill out Form I-360 to begin the application process.