The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted in 1994 and its main purpose is to protect immigrants who find themselves in abusive family relationships with US citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRS). VAWA allows the abused family members to petition for themselves in order to obtain lawful immigration status in the United States, without the knowledge and help of the abuser.
The following categories of aliens can self-petition: (1) spouses of U.S. citizens and LPRs; (2) children of U.S. citizens and LPRs and (3) parents of U.S. citizens only. In order to show eligibility, the petitioner must demonstrate that the U.S. citizen or LPR abuser has subjected him or her to “battery” or “extreme cruelty.” The process starts by submitting Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant, along with supporting evidence documenting the abuse to USCIS. After reviewing the file, USCIS may approve the application or issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) or a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). If the self-petition is approved, the alien can apply for adjustment of status and become a lawful permanent resident. Also, approved VAWA self-petitioners are eligible for employment authorization.