If you, your child or a child that you care about is being abused, it can be a very confusing and frustrating experience. Many people feel trapped and afraid that there is nothing that they can do to help, especially if the one abusing you is a so-called loved one. The fact is, however, that there are excellent options available through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It is important to note that despite the name of the act, it is actually there to help all victims of domestic violence regardless of age or gender.

This act has provisions in place which make it possible to file a petition without the abuser’s knowledge. By keeping the petition from the abuser, they can seek safety and independence. Children can file this petition on their own in some cases, but they will often need the help of either the non-abusive parent, or a caring relative, friend or neighbor who is willing to assist.

Who is Eligible?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which was later amended by the Violence Against Women Act in 2000, many victims of abuse will be eligible for help. There are three primary categories of people who can qualify:

  • Spouse – The spouse of an abusive husband or wife who is either a US citizen or a permanent resident will qualify. If a child is the direct victim of the abuse, you the parent can still apply for yourself and your children as long as they are unmarried and under 21 years old.
  • Parent – Though less common, parents who are abused by their children may qualify under VAWA.
  • Child – Children who are under 21 years of age and unmarried can file for themselves if they have been abused. In some cases, children between 21 and 25 years of age can still qualify as long as they only delayed filing directly because of the abuse.

Requirements for Eligibility

In order to qualify for any type of help, including filing a petition without the abuser’s knowledge, abuse victims must meet some specific requirements. First, the abuser must be either a US citizen or a permanent resident. The abuser may have lost citizenship or legal resident status due to a situation related to domestic violence. If the abuser is not a US citizen or a legal resident, then you might want to consider a U visa.

In addition, the victim must have suffered battery and/or extreme cruelty by this abuser. They must have resided with the abuser as well. For victims who are 14 years old or older, they must be shown to be a person of good moral character, which typically means they have not been arrested for serious crimes.

How to File

In order to complete this process you will need to complete the immigration form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant). This needs to be completed and submitted to the proper immigration offices in your area. As with all immigration processes, the form is just the beginning. The evidence applicants need to support their petitions is critical to your success for approval.

By working with an experienced immigration attorney licensed to practice law, your chances to be approved improve dramatically. Please contact us today if you’d like assistance or additional information!

Swenson Law Office, PC

5161 E. Arapahoe Rd., Suite 120