Chicago Law Office of Christine Contreras

Frequently Asked Questions About Filing a VAWA Case

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 was a groundbreaking federal law that aimed to protect victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The act is renewed every five years to grow funding for programs and resources and assess the scope of coverage.

The VAWA Act protects non-citizens, enabling spouses suffering from domestic abuse to leave the other party even if one’s immigration status is dependent on them. With VAWA, immigrants have an alternative to leave an abusive environment. But how does it work? Read the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about VAWA below.

Common Questions about VAWA

What forms must you file for a VAWA case?

Form I-360, the Self-Petition for Battered Spouse/Child, is the form to use for VAWA petitioning. You may also need to file to adjust your status, which would require the filing of Form I-485.

Any physical, medical, or judicial evidence of abuse should also be collected for reference if necessary.

We highly advise consulting with an attorney to ensure you file all relevant forms to your specific case.

Can men file for VAWA?

Yes, VAWA petitions are available for any spouse (men or women), child or parent victim.

Do you have to remain married to your abusive spouse during VAWA petitioning?

No. Form I-360 approval is not dependent on maintaining an abusive relationship. If you or your spouse has already filed for, or are considering filing for divorce, it is important to talk to an immigration lawyer right away. Divorce can have an impact on your case, but usually you have up to 2 years from the date of divorce to file for a VAWA Self-Petition if you were a victim of domestic abuse or extreme cruelty by your partner.

What are the definitions for abuse?

Under VAWA, the definitions of abuse are broad, as abuse can take many forms. The easiest form of abuse to be identified is physical abuse, such as hitting or punching. But you may be eligible to file a VAWA petition if you were a victim of other types of abuse such as emotional abuse, intimidation, threatening behavior, harassment, or sexual abuse.

If you are currently a victim of abuse, reach out to an attorney to find out if you qualify for VAWA.

What does the process look like after filing I-360?

There is no exact timeline in response to filing Form I-360 and there are always chances you may be required to file more information. You should be able to access USCIS communication online, otherwise you must maintain an accessible physical mailing address. It is usually a good idea to forward all mail communications to a family member’s residence, or your attorney’s office, to avoid any interaction with the abusive party.

If your case is approved, and you have also filed to adjust status, an interview for your green card will be scheduled.

However, keep in mind your VAWA petition can be denied for any number of reasons. This is not an outright denial, and your letter will include instructions to file an appeal. If you need to file an appeal, that will need to be done within 33 days of receiving the denial decision.

At Law Office of Christine Contreras, we take every opportunity to work on VAWA cases that can help immigrants in a precarious situation avoid further abuse. We have years of experience working on these cases and getting results. Contact us today to discuss your situation and make a plan together!

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