Violence against Women’s Act and
Domestic Abuse Victims

Victims of domestic abuse may qualify for an immigrant visa (I-360) that leads to a green card under VAWA (Violence Against Women’s Act). This provision helps victims of domestic abuse, both male and female, to obtain lawful permanent resident status (green card) without their immediate relative (the abuser) having to petition for them.


In order to be able to self-petition for a VAWA application, you must show the following:

  • You are a person of good moral character.
  • You are the spouse, child or parent of a U.S. citizen, or a spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident (LPR). If you are divorced, you must file within 2 years of the divorce being final.
  • If filing based on marriage, you must prove your marriage was bona fide and not entered into for immigration purposes.
  • You suffered from battery or extreme cruelty. This can be in the form of physical abuse, or severe emotional or mental abuse.
Once your self-petition is filed, USCIS will temporarily assume that you have preliminarily met all the requirements for the application and will send you a notice of prima facie determination. This notice means that you may qualify for certain public benefits, but it is not an approval notice.

If USCIS determines your application to be true, they will approve the immigrant petition. Once it is approved, the applicant is eligible to file for a work authorization. Depending on the category in which they qualify, the applicant may be immediately eligible to file for a green card, or they may have to wait several years in order for their visa number to become current. An applicant who is, or was, married to a U.S. citizen can file an I-360 and an I-485 adjustment of status (green card) application concurrently.

VAWA applications require substantial evidence to prove that qualifying abuse was suffered by the applicant. Application with ample documentation of physical abuse, including pictures, police reports, medical reports, criminal convictions of the abuser, etc., will more likely succeed.

Extreme emotional and mental abuse is harder to document in many cases, but it is not impossible. Detailed affidavits and other supporting documentation can prove the pattern of mental and/or emotional abuse that will allow the applicant to prove that he or she meets this criterion of VAWA.

In either case, it is critical that you contact an experienced immigration attorney with the appropriate expertise in handling VAWA cases. The immigration attorneys at Weinstock Immigration Lawyers have been successful in obtaining approvals in many domestic abuse cases, and we understand the importance of working closely with the victim to document the circumstances of abuse. Our immigration lawyers are also extremely sensitive to the ordeal the victim goes through and will try to make the process as simple and straightforward as possible. If you’re considering self-petition for a green card based on domestic abuse, call us today. We’ll determine the best strategy for your case and get you the green card to remain in the United States independent of your abuser.

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the full list of Green Cards