San Antonio Immigration Attorney Helping Women to Safety Through VAWA Petitions
Domestic violence is a very real problem that directly affects one in four women during their lifetime, with over one million physical assaults on women by their intimate partner occurring every year in the U.S. alone. Women who are abused often feel trapped in their situation and are scared to speak out or find help. This situation is even worse for immigrant women, who due to language barriers, social isolation, lack of resources, and worry over immigration status, may be even more reluctant to try to get help and break out of an abusive relationship.
But help is available. The immigration attorneys at The Lozano Law Firm in San Antonio and San Angelo help immigrant women find safety and freedom from abuse with the help of U.S. immigration policy and the protections afforded by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Free Yourself From an Abusive Relationship Without Harming Your Immigration Status
VAWA is a federal law first passed by Congress in 1994. It was updated in 2000 by the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act and reauthorized in 2005 and again in 2013. VAWA provides a route for noncitizens who have been victims of battery or extreme cruelty by a spouse or parent to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States without having to rely on their citizen or resident spouse or parent to petition for them through the usual alien relative process. Instead, under VAWA the abused spouse may “self-petition” for residency without the knowledge of the abusive spouse or parent.
The Lozano Law Firm can help you prepare and file your petition for lawful permanent residence and obtain a green card under VAWA. Even if you don’t qualify for residence under VAWA, we may still be able to help you obtain legal status as a victim of criminal domestic abuse with a U visa.
Who Is Eligible for a VAWA Green Card?
VAWA allows those who are spouses, immediate relatives, or dependents of U.S. citizens or lawful residents to petition the U.S. for their own green card. However, under some complicated scenarios, those who are not the direct recipient of the violence may also apply under VAWA. Eligibility includes:
- Those who are suffering abuse by a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident;
- Those who have children who are suffering abuse by a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident; and
- Children who are suffering abuse by a parent or other guardian.
The act may specifically name women, but men and children may still apply for a green card under VAWA given that certain conditions are met. For instance, if one man is being abused by his husband (who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident) the other man may apply under VAWA. In addition, if a wife is abusing her children, the husband may apply under VAWA to protect the children.
What Are the Criteria for Eligibility?
In addition to being of a protected class of either those who are being abused by legal residents or those who have children who are being abused, there are other criteria for eligibility. These include:
Good Faith Marriage Requirement
You must show that you entered into a marriage with the abuser in good faith. In other words, USCIS will investigate your marriage to ensure that you did not enter the marriage solely for the purpose of bypassing citizenship or legal resident status requirements.
Evidence of Abuse
You will need to provide some evidence that you are the victim of battery or cruelty. This can include witness testimony and medical reports. Your own testimony will be considered evidence as well.
You will need to prove that either you or your child (if they were the recipient of abuse) actually lived with the individual who was abusive.
Your Own Conduct Is Important
Lastly, your own conduct can impact your eligibility under VAWA. If you have any arrests over the past three years, the courts will consider that when examining your case.
What exactly constitutes good moral character? Legally, “good moral character” equates to an average standard or moral character and a person’s obligations under the law. While it’s easy to identify what good moral character is, it’s even easier to say what it isn’t. In other words, certain offenses can hinder your immigration status.
What Offenses Can Hinder Your Immigration Status?
In addition to violent offenses, these include “crimes of moral turpitude” also known as crimes related to vices. These include drug crimes, prostitution, gambling-related offenses, or perjury. Crimes of moral turpitude also include any vile or depraved act, such as public urination or flashing. These crimes, regardless of their legal severity, can make it more difficult for you to be granted a visa. In addition, any serious criminal offenses will also hurt your chances.
If there is evidence of these crimes in your past, you and your attorney will need to show that you:
- have reformed,
- have completed drug rehabilitation, or
- are otherwise no longer a threat to commit vile or depraved acts.
Understanding the Application Process
The VAWA immigration attorneys at the Lozano Law Firm can help you file the petition and get the evidence you need to prove your case to the court. What can you expect? Well, there’s a process involved.
First, you will receive a notice about two weeks after you have filed the petition. The court will then determine whether or not your application appears to be complete. The court has not approved your petition, but it’s saying that it appears that you meet all the basic requirements. They may also require that you submit more evidence. After your application is approved, you can begin the process of applying for a green card.
Applying for a U Visa
As an alternative, you may consider applying for a U visa. Unlike VAWA petitions, you do not have a qualifying U.S. citizen or legal resident to apply. There are, however, restrictions on the number of U visas that are granted each year.
For instance, if the individual who is abusing you is not an authorized U.S. citizen, then you may be required to apply for a U visa rather than VAWA. Lastly, U visas require that you aid law enforcement during the process of prosecuting a crime. A law enforcement officer must certify your helpfulness.
An Experienced VAWA Attorney Can Help
Navigating the U.S. justice system can be daunting, particularly for those who have grown up elsewhere. You will need an attorney to help you:
- file the petition,
- ensure you have the evidence you need, and
- respond to the court’s requests for more evidence.
The attorneys at the Lozano Law Firm have considerable experience filing VAWA petitions. We help those who have been the victims of abuse become independent of those who abuse them.
Seek Immediate Help From an Experienced Immigration Attorney in San Antonio
If you have been victimized by domestic violence or abuse and don’t know where to turn, get yourself to a safe location and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. They can connect you with resources and help you find a shelter in your area. If you are worried about how this might affect your immigration status, contact The Lozano Law Firm in San Antonio or San Angelo for advice and assistance from a skilled and compassionate Texas immigration lawyer.