New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

VAWA Benefits: From Self-Petition To Special Motion To Reopen

Author: USA Immigration Lawyer Alena Shautsova

VAWA stands for Violence Against Women Act. It is a law that helps certain abused, beaten relatives of Lawful permanent residents and citizens to self-petition or obtain benefits in the US without the need of a relative, family-based I 130. Here, I will share some benefits and leniencies that the VAWA provisions afford to victims of domestic violence and abuse in the United States.

Adjustment Of Status (AOS) Related Benefits

The most well-known VAWA benefit is the opportunity of the victim to self-petition: an abused husband or wife (in certain situations child or parent), may submit a petition that would later allow him/her to become a green card holder in the US, without the assistance of the US relative. Of course, certain qualifications must be met in each particular category: for example, for the spouse-related cases, a VAWA-petitioner must prove that the marriage was real, that he/she filed her case within 2 years of the legal termination of the marriage, etc. But the fact is: VAWA petitioner does not need the cooperation of the US relative (USC or LPR). Moreover, the US-relative will not be informed about the VAWA petition, and if he/she somehow learns about it and will decide to send a “note” to the government, such notes or statements must be disregarded, unless it is independently corroborated y an unrelated person.

Second important VAWA AOS-related benefit is an opportunity for a petitioner to adjust their status without the need to prove “legal” entry or inspection and admission or parole. Simply put, a person who crossed the border and now is an abused spouse of a US citizen, for example, may submit his/her application for adjustment of status if he/she also qualifies for VAWA benefits. If the same person were not abused and would try to submit an AOS package with their US spouse, they would not be able to receive a green card via adjustment of status process.

Finally, VAWA-beneficiaries do not need to worry about the public charge inadmissibility bar: it does not apply to them. Hence, no affidavit of support is needed, and there is no need to worry about using public benefits.

Immigration Waivers Related Benefits

However, there are more benefits a VAWA- qualified petitioner may need and use. For example, only VAWA-self petitioner may file for a permanent bar waiver during the AOS proceedings. The law specifically provides that a waiver of the permanent bar is available for VAWA self-petitioners if they can show a connection between the abuse and the event that triggered the permanent bar, i.e., their deportation, departure, reentry, or attempted reentry. A VAWA self-petitioner will be using waiver form I 601 in this situation.

For 212h waiver, a VAWA applicant/beneficiary also may use a special provision:  a VAWA applicant is exempt from the requirement of demonstrating extreme hardship.

VAWA Benefits In Connection With Removal Proceedings

When a VAWA eligible person is placed in removal proceedings, he/she may have one more relief from removal available: VAWA cancellation of removal. To qualify for it, a person has to demonstrate the following:

  • That a person has been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent;
  • That a person has been physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of 3 years or more prior to VAWA application and the issue of the Notice to Appear (NTA);
  • That a person has been a person of good moral character during the past 3 years;
  • That removal would cause extreme hardship to applicant, applicants’ children or parents;
  • That certain inadmissibility grounds (criminal convictions, etc.) do not apply to the applicant.

If a potential VAWA beneficiary has an order of removal, he/she may file a motion to reopen for a petition under VAWA or for special rule cancellation of removal within one year of a final order, but even that time limitations may be waived. The applicant must be in the US, however.

VAWA Naturalization Benefits

A VAWA beneficiary may file his/her naturalization application within obtaining a green card or lawful permanent resident status.

VAWA Employment Authorization

When a VAWA self-petition gets approved, the beneficiary receives a special employment authorization under c(31) category. In addition, the battered spouse of an A, E-3, G, and H non-immigrant is legible for employment authorization as well.

NYC Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova helps clients with VAWA-related challenges, including self-petitions, appeals, motions to reopen, notices of intent to revoke, requests for more evidence, etc. If you need help with any questions related to VAWA or VAWA qualifications, reserve your confidential consultation by calling 917-885-2261.

15 October 2020
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