The Violence Against Women Act of 2019 contains clauses that offer certain immigration benefits to eligible permanent residency seekers when these have been victimized by lawful United States permanent residents or American citizens. Under the Violence Against Women Act, eligible foreign nations do not have to rely on family member abusers in order to obtain aid to gain access to a lawful entry into the country. Under this act, permanent residency seekers can self-petition to obtain a green card.

A Brief Background on the Violence Act Against Women Act

The original Violence Against Women Act created a number of programs that aimed to accomplish the following:

  • Prevent domestic violence,
  • Prevent sexual assault,
  • Encourage collaboration among various policing systems and private or public stakeholders,
  • Investigate and prosecute domestic violence crimes,
  • Encourage local governments to handle domestic violence as a serious crime, and
  • Prevent crime in public places

Today, the Violence Against Women Act has established new programs that strengthen previous goals and also aims to encourage youth educational programs. Additionally, the new additions to the act serve to provide grants for intervention and prevention programs. The Congressional Research Service provides a complete overview of the 2019 program.

Eligibility Requirements

In order for a person to qualify for a permanent residency status under the Violence Against Women Act, the inquiring party must meet certain requirements. Although the name of the program implies support for women, men are equally able to apply for benefits.

The Abuser is a Legal U.S. Permanent Resident or U.S. Citizen

The qualifying relative will need to have a current permanent residency status or be an American citizen. Petitioners, however, can still file under the program if the abuse happened before the abuser was able to obtain his or her own green card or became a U.S. citizen. Additionally, petitioners can still file under the program if the abuser has lost his or her permanent residency status or citizenship. In the event that the abuser lost his or her permanent residency status because of a crime involving domestic violence, the victim will have two (2) years from the time of the lost residency to file a petition.

The Victim Was/Is a Spouse or Child of a Permanent Resident or U.S. Citizen or is the Parent of a U.S. Citizen

Permanent residencies are available to battered children or spouses of United States citizens or legal permanent residents. They are also available to parents who were abused by their children who were at least 21 years of age at the time of the petition. Unmarried minors under the age of 21 can be included on a battered person’s Violence Against Women Act petition.

For former spouses, if the marriage has ended because of the abuse, the victim can file for a petition within two (2) years from the termination of the marriage. Likewise, if the abusing party has passed away, the victim can file for a petition within two (2) years from the time of death. If the marriage was terminated after the petition was submitted, this will have no effect on the petition. However, if the victim was remarried prior to the approval of the petition, the petition will likely be rejected.

There Was Battery or Abuse During the Relationship

Currently, the law requires that the victim prove that the American citizen or legal permanent resident family member has subjected him or her to violence. Acts of violence perpetuated against the victim will include sexual abuse and physical violence. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services also considers the following as abusive behavior:

  • Controlling behavior,
  • Emotional abuse,
  • Threat of harm,
  • Threat of deportation,
  • Forcible detention (kidnapping), and
  • Other behaviors that can be considered of extreme cruelty

Although this is not an exhaustive list, the agency will also consider the case as a whole when making a decision on whether the person was in fact subject to abuse.

Speak to a Knowledgeable Immigration Attorney

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, there are various government programs that can help you. If you have questions about obtaining a permanent residency status under the Violence Against Women Act, speak to a knowledgeable attorney today.

Attorney Oliver P. King has dedicated his career to the support of legal immigration services. As a dedicated attorney, Mr. King seeks to defend the rights of those seeking a U.S. permanent residency. Contact the King Immigration Law Group for questions about the Violence Against Women Act of 2019.