VAWA is the acronym for the Violence Against Women Act, which was passed by Congress in 1994. VAWA is intended to help battered non-citizens who are married to, or recently divorced from US Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents self-petition for Lawful Permanent Residence or to remove the condition on their 2-year Conditional Permanent Residence cards.
Self petitioning means that the victim of abuse can apply on her own without the knowledge of the abuser. In fact, the law is clear that the Unites States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) may not inform an applicant’s spouse that a victim has applied for residency.
If a non-citizen victim of abuse is not married to or recently divorced from the abuser then a U Visa could be a good option for obaining legal status. The U Visa is designed to provide immigration status to non-citizens that are assisting or are willing to assist authorities investigating crimes. Non-citizens may be eligible for a U Visa if they are a crime victim who (1) have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from criminal activity; (2) have information regarding the criminal activity; (3) assist government officials in the investigation or prosecution of such criminal activity; and (4) the criminal activity violated US law or occurred in the United States (including Indian country and military installations) or the territories and possession of the United States.
Please visit WomensLaw.org to read more about VAWA and U Visas including steps on how to petition.
*42 U.S.C.A. § 3796gg-0 (Retrieved from: http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/docs/ovw_establishment.pdf)