The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was drafted by the office of then Senator Joe Biden and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The Act provides money for investigating and prosecuting violent crimes against women. It also allows certain victims of violence to remain in the United States.

Under VAWA, an abused child or spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can self-petition for lawful status in the United States. Individuals who request lawful status after being the victim of abuse may receive employment authorization and access to public benefits. VAWA can provide survivors of domestic violence the means to escape future violence and to establish independent lives.

You may be able to ask permission to work and live in the United States with a green card without your spouse’s help if your spouse or parent:

  • Threatens to beat you and your children
  • Forces you to have sex against your will
  • Threatens to deport you
  • Hits, punches, slaps or hurts you or your children
  • Emotionally abuses you at home or in public

To qualify, your spouse or parent who is abusing you must be a United States citizen or must be a lawful permanent resident with a green card. Furthermore, you must prove that you were abused and if you are married that you did not marry simply to get a green card.

In order to protect your rights and to self-petition for a green card under VAWA, you should:

  • Retain records of the abuse, such as your medical records or police report
  • Keep your immigration documents as well as your spouse’s paperwork
  • Secure copies of documents that establish your residence
  • Have copies of your marriage license
  • Seek legal guidance from a Los Angeles immigration attorney

There is support available for victims of domestic violence. Without guidance, however, victims of abuse may not receive the help they need to live, stay and work in the United States. If you are from a foreign country and are a survivor of violence here in the U.S., please do not hesitate to research your legal rights and options and then contact the Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles, P.C.