VAWA immigration attorneys in New york

VAWA protects victims of domestic violence. If you are reading this page, you have taken an important first step, and please read on further. There are options for victims of domestic violence and you may be able to obtain your residence without any cooperation from your abusive spouse, parent or child. This articles discusses options for victims of spousal abuse, victims of parental abuse and also victims of abusive adult children.

Immigration Lawyer New York City

Where can you call for protection?

If you ever feel insecure or under a threat, remember that you can always call the police for protection. You can also contact the National Domestic Violence hotline – you can access their website here. Their website is a great first resource for you to become familiar with.


The qualifying relationship:

The following persons are eligible to self-petition under VAWA:

  • Abused spouse of U.S. citizen or LPR
  • victim unmarried children under the age of 21 may be derivatives;
  • Non-abused spouse of whose child is abused by the U.S. citizen or LPR
    spouse, even if the child is not related to the abuser

Marriage requirements:

The marriage to the abuser must be legal and must have been bona-fide. If the marriage terminated through a divorce, you have two years from the date of the divorce to self-petition. If you let the two years pass, then you will not be able to file for your self.

What if you though that you are legally married, but it turns out that the abuser’s divorce was not final. If you had the marriage ceremony, then you unknowingly entered into a bigamous marriage. But don’t worry there is an exception in the law in the INA code. (INA §204(a)(1)(A)(iii)(II)(aa)(BB) [intended spouse of USC]; INA §204(a)(1)(B)(ii)(II)(aa)(BB) [intended spouse of LPR].

What is a bona-fide marriage and how do you prove it?

Another term is a good-faith marriage. You cannot have entered into the marriage solely for obtaining an immigration benefit. Another factor is that you must not have had a reason to believe that the spouse would be abusive. It also means that when you got married you did so with the intent to establish a life together.

What are the “residence” requirements?

Residence before and during the marriage:

You need to have resided with the abuser at some point, either inside or outside the United States. There is no specified amount of time of living with the abused – from a couple of days to years. And you do not need to be currently living with the abuser. The whole point of VAWA is to give the victim the freedom to leave the abusive relationship. So you can qualify even if you lived only for only a short time and even in in another country.

Current residence in the USA

residing in the United States, or

if living abroad, was subjected to abuse in the United States, or

the abusive U.S. citizen or LPR is an employee of the U.S. government or armed forces.

The self-petitioner must have “good moral character”

What acts would make you a person who does NOT possess good moral character? This answer is in INA § 101(f), and the gist of it is summarized here:

  • cannot have lied to immigration
  • cannot be convicted of aggravated felonies, prostitution, alien smuggling, illegal gambling, controlled substance offenses
  • would not qualify if you were a habitual drunkard

What is the “Abuse” definition

The legal standard for abuse is battery or extreme cruelty- but do not let these fancy words scare you

The abuse must have happened during the relationship. So if you divorced the biological parents and the abuse happened after the divorce, then it doesn’t count.

Abuse can be psychological and/or physical.

How do you prove abuse? Personal statements, texts, emails, financial records, orders of protection, photos, etc.

Please read this and see if you think it sounds familiar.

Domestic violence is an ongoing conduct of asserting power and control. The violence can be physical and non-physical abuse. Many immigrants who are victims of domestic violence do not know about how many programs and resources may be available. The abuser controls the victim even more so when the abused has no information about available resources.

What tactics does the abuser rely on?

Many tactics might be used by abusers to dominate and many of them are specific to immigrants.

  1. Fear about immigration status.
  2. Control through promises regarding helping with immigration status.
  3. Threats to call immigration and ask them to deport.

Please familiarize yourself with the science behind the Power and Control Wheel. Here is a summary of how an abuser continues with the physical and sexual violence:

  1. Coercion and Threats – threats of physical harm, or self-harm, even suicide. Threats of reporting to immigration and or welfare. Making you do illegal things.
  2. Intimidation – making you afraid by using looks, actions and gestures (e.g. raising a closed fist near your face). Destroying property like smashing objects, throwing objects in a manner meant to destroy them. Displaying weapons.
  3. Emotional abuse – putting you down, making you feel bad about yourself, playing mind games, humiliating you, making you feel guilty.
  4. Isolation – controlling what you do, who you can see and talk to.
  5. Gaslighting – minimizing, denying and blaming.
  6. Using children – making you feel like a bad parent, relaying messages through your children.
  7. Economic – not letting you get a job, making you ask for money, giving you an allowance, etc.

List of Documents you may want to have

Here is a list of documents you may want to have in a safe place outside the home in case of an emergency.
• Original birth certificates, Passports, I-94 entry/departure record
• Social security card; employment authorization

  • Immigration-related documents, including receipts
  • Orders of protection and other court documents
  • Social security numbers
  • copies of recent paystubs of spouse
  • copies of birth certificates, green card, or naturalizaiton


Are you an undocumented parent of a US citizen child? Is your child psychologically or physically abusive to you?  First, let me say that this is truly a heartbreaking situation for every parent. And especially for immigrant parents who left their home countries to provide for a better future for their children. Immigrant parents make the highest sacrifice in the name of the well-being of their children – they leave their parents and their close families for an an unknown land and culture.

What was VAWA designed to protect?

The VAWA statute was designed to protect not only abused spouses but also abused parents. It was created to provide dignity to hard-working parents who would otherwise be trapped in with an abusive child. The statue clearly provides for self-petitioning eligibility to parents of U.S. citizens and employment authorization for all approved VAWA self petitioners.

Self-petitioning explained

It means that you can process all the immigration paperwork without any help from your abusive child. Your attorney can guide you trough all the requirements. If you are still living with your abusive child, you don not need to do this anymore. You can move out and move on with your life.

The VAWA requirements

First we need to determine who is the abuser.  Let’s run through the list if your child fits in the definition of a “child” under the INA code. 

  • Your child is (was) a US citizen – even if your child is now deceased.
  • Or, your child is or was at least 21 years of age.
  • and child also means – stepchildren and adopted children.
  • Step – children qualify if
    • if the marriage to the biological parent occurred prior to the 18th birthday of the step-child
    • the marriage is still valid on the date of the application

What other requirements are there?

You must have lived with the abuser for at lease some time.

That you are person of good moral character.


How do I prove abuser’s citizenship or permanent residence status?

If you have a copy of a birth certificate, naturalization certificate or certificate of citizenship. If you do not have these records, you may be able to obtain them through a FOIA request.

How long should I have lived together with the abuser?

It could be a couple of days, months or years. In the USA or abroad.

Because I am an abused spouse, can my children apply under VAWA as well?

Yes, the children can apply even if they were not abused themselves.

As a child of a US citizen or LPR, till what age can I apply for VAWA?

Abused children may petition until the age of 25, only if you can link the abuse to the delay in filing.

I am a spouse, however the marriage to the abuser was not legal because of an invalid divorce. Can I still apply?

Yes, as an “intended” spouse. As long as the marriage ceremony was performed, and the only deficiency is due to a bigamous marriage.

I am a parent. If I report the abuse to USCIS, will that affect my child?

Since your child is a US citizen, no, it will not affect your child.

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NY 10573.


(914) 481-8822



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