Philadelphia VAWA Immigration Lawyer
Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 to protect women from abuse. In the immigration context, the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can self-petition for a green card if they suffered serious physical, mental, emotional, or verbal abuse. Despite the name, men can also self-petition for a green card if they qualify, as can children. A green card allows the recipient to live permanently in the United States. Contact Ellenberg Law Group today to review whether you qualify under this program. One of our Philadelphia VAWA immigration lawyers can assist in the process, greatly improving your odds of success.
Who is Eligible for VAWA?
Any battered spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can apply. If you are divorced or widowed, you can also seek protection under VAWA, but you must file your petition within two years of the end of your marriage or death of your spouse.
As the applicant seeking VAWA protection, you have the burden of showing substantial oppression or cruelty. This can take many different forms, depending on the context. We often see battered spouses apply for VAWA based on substantial physical, psychological, sexual, or emotional abuse. Other types of abuse, like financial abuse, might also qualify.
A successful applicant does more than simply claim they were abused. They also need supporting evidence. This evidence can include sworn affidavits, medical records, police reports, health evaluations, and pictures of bruises or injuries. An immigration attorney is a big benefit, because we can help strengthen an application by finding appropriate evidence. Some applicants are rejected because the immigration office doesn’t believe abuse happened or believe it was minor.
To succeed, you also must show you entered the marriage in good faith and not simply to get a green card. Again, an attorney can help document your intentions by, for example, showing a history of living together and sharing finances with your spouse.
The application process begins by filing Form I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. We typically file Form I-485, Adjustment of Status at the same time, which will allow you to receive work authorization. Critically, this authorization means you will not be financially dependent on your abusive spouse and can possibly leave the marriage.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will request that you come in for an interview. The officer conducting the interview will assess the credibility of your abuse allegations and review your documents. This interview is critical, and you should discuss it with an attorney.
We Can Meet for a Confidential Consultation
Battered spouses often hesitate to contact an attorney because they fear their abuser will find out. This is a legitimate concern. Nevertheless, VAWA applicants benefit from the advice of an experienced attorney.
At Ellenberg Law Group, we will do everything possible to keep your information private. Call us to connect with a Philadelphia VAWA immigration lawyer today. We can meet at a time and place that is comfortable for you.