What if my U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse is abusive? VAWA Petitions

Domestic violence is taken very seriously in the United States. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act gives spouses and children who are abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident the opportunity to petition for permanent residency without the cooperation of the abusive spouse. To do this, the abused spouse must:

     Have suffered battery or extreme mental cruelty from the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse.

     Be of good moral character.

     Have lived with the abuser either in the U.S. or outside of the U.S. if a spouse was on military or government duties.

     prove that the marriage was entered in good faith.


Event though the statute is called Violence Against Women Act, spouses, children and parents of both male and female gender can file a petition under this category.


VAWA petition is also available for children of the victimized spouse. If the abused spouse’s child is between the age of 21 and 25, they may still be able to file a petition under this statute if they could prove that the abuse was a central reason for the inability to file before their 21st birthday.


If a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuses their children or parents, those may petition for permanent residency as well with a similar standard (proof of abuse, good moral character, etc.).


Petitioning family members under this statute must file Form I-360 to initiate the process. If you have been abused, contact the law enforcement. If you are concerned about your own status, contact an immigration attorney who can assist you through the process.

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