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USCIS has announced new policy guidance on VAWA self petitions, making it easier for applicants trying to get a green card through the Violence Against Women Act. You can apply for VAWA whether you are a man or a woman, so long as you experienced battery or extreme cruelty from your US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. The three changes we discuss are to the “shared residence” criteria, the “good moral character” criteria, and the rules for stepparents and stepchildren.

  • 0:00 USCIS VAWA Policy Guidance Update
  • 0:50 Change #11:57 Change #2
  • 3:04 Change #3

☎️ To schedule a consultation on your case, call Moumita's office at (212) 248-7907 or visit her website HERE.

☎️ Para programar una consulta sobre su caso, llame a la oficina de Moumita al (212) 248-7907 o visite su sitio web AQUÍ

Video Transcript

Last week USCIS announced new policy guidance on how they evaluate VAWA Self Petitions, which is great news because it means more immigrants are eligible to qualify! 

A VAWA Self Petition allows you  to get a green card if you are the victim of battery or extreme cruelty by your US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse, parent, or child—without getting them involved.

You can apply for VAWA whether you are a man or a woman, and it will get you a work permit, deferred action, travel permission, and eventually a 10-year green card.

Most VAWA cases involve a spouse who has been the victim of physical abuse or extreme cruelty. In order to qualify you need to prove that:

  • You were married to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • You married your spouse in good faith;
  • That you were battered or experienced extreme cruelty;
  • That you resided with your spouse;
  • And that you are a person of good moral character.

The criteria are a little different for parents and children, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

My law firm specializes in VAWA cases, so if you think that you might qualify then give me a call at 212-248-7907 to schedule a consultation so I can learn more about your case. 

Residence Requirement

So what changes did USCIS recently announce about VAWA Self-petitions?

First is an update to the criteria for “showing proof of shared residency.” Part of a VAWA application requires that you provide “one or more documents showing that you and the abuser have resided together.” 

This can be things like: 

  • Lease or rental agreements
  • Utility or other bills
  • Children’s school or medical records
  • Or any other document listing you and the abuser at the same address at the same time.

It is not required that you live with the abuser at the time you submit your application, but previously you had to prove that you lived together while you were married. The new changes mean that you only have to show proof of living together with your abuser at any time in the past. So it is now easier for applicants to meet this requirement when submitting their VAWA application: 

For example, if you have a rental agreement with both of your names on it from a period of time before you were married, that would now fulfill this requirement. 

Other New Changes

The second change announced by USCIS has to do with the “Good Moral Character” requirement, which asks for proof that you’re a good member of society.

For example, if you have a criminal conviction on your record, this can cause your VAWA application to be denied. 

The change announced by USCIS broadens which criminal convictions qualify for an exemption, meaning even if you have that conviction on your record your VAWA application may still be approved.  

Why does this matter? Well in domestic violence situations, it’s not uncommon for charges to be brought against both parties or for the abuser to manipulate the police, resulting in the victim having charges brought against them. 

The government understands this and allows charges that are “connected to the battery or extreme cruelty” to qualify for an exception, so the person who suffered abuse can still meet the “good moral character” requirement.  

And the third change announced by USCIS allows stepchildren and stepparents to be eligible for VAWA self-petitions even if the parent and stepparent got divorced.

For example, if you are the child of an immigrant and you come to this country because your mother married a US citizen: That US citizen then becomes your step-father, and over time you experience extreme cruelty from him. If later your mother and step-father divorce, you may still qualify for VAWA even though the US citizen is no longer married to your mother, so long as you meet the other qualification requirements.

USCIS announced they are implementing these changes immediately and that they apply to all VAWA self-petitions that are currently pending, or that are filed on or after February 10, 2022. 

If you think you might qualify, please give me a call at 202-248-7907 so we can discuss your case together.

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