The Violence Against Women Act gives abused immigrants with pending or approved VAWA family based visa petitions access to federal and state public benefits. Along with the various forms of relief discussed on our main VAWA page, abused immigrants can become eligible to receive benefits from the government. Before the VAWA was passed in 1994, abused immigrant spouses and children had no option other than to submit to the abuse or be deported. The abuser would often threaten to stop helping the immigrant victims get green cards in order to keep them quiet and compliant. Now, victims can now successfully complete the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States without the assistance or knowledge of their abuser by submitting VAWA family based visa petitions.
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The law also gives victims of abusive spouses or parents the ability to seek work authorization through VAWA. Spouses and children of U.S. citizens can receive work authorization while their self-petitions are pending, but those related to lawful permanent residents (LPRs) can only become eligible for work authorization if their self-petition is approved.
If a documented or undocumented battered immigrant meets the requirements to be considered a “qualified immigrant” then they become eligible for the same federal means-tested public benefits, federal public benefits, and federally funded social services (except SSI and Food Stamps) that are available to U.S. citizens.
Immigrant victims do not have to file for VAWA related immigration relief in order to qualify for benefits as a “qualified immigrant”. Even where the lawful permanent resident spouse or parent has filed family based visa applications for those that have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty, medical care, counseling, safety and other benefits are granted to the victim.
VAWA Family Based Visa Petitions Links
- Battered Spouse, Children & Parents (USCIS)
- Process to Get a Green Card Under VAWA
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Carl Shusterman served as an INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) before opening a firm specializing exclusively in US immigration law. He is a Certified Specialist in Immigration Law who has testified as an expert witness before the US Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Carl was featured in the February 2018 edition of SuperLawyers Magazine.