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Legal Information: Federal


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January 30, 2018

What are some additional requirements to self-petition under VAWA as the spouse of a USC or LPR?

In addition to meeting the abusive relationship requirement explained in Who is eligible to self-petition? you must meet all additional requirements listed below if you are self-petitioning as the spouse of an abusive US citizen (USC) or legal permanent resident (LPR):

  • Marriage to a USC or LPR: You must meet one of the following:
    • be married to a USC/LPR (including common-law marriage);
    • your USC spouse (not LPR) died within the past 2 years;
    • your USC/LPR spouse lost his/her citizenship or residency within the past two years related to an incident of domestic violence;
    • you believed that you married a USC/LPR and a marriage ceremony was performed but you later found out that your marriage was not valid because your spouse was committing bigamy (s/he was already married when s/he “married” you); or
    • you were divorced from your USC/LPR spouse within the past two years and you can show a connection between the abuse that you suffered and the divorce.1
  • The marriage was a good faith marriage:2 You married in good faith and not only to obtain immigration benefits.3
  • Battery or extreme cruelty: During your marriage, your USC/LPR spouse must have battered (physically abused) you or your child or subjected you or your child to “extreme cruelty.”4 Extreme cruelty is any form of power and control, including but not limited to, the following:
    • being a victim of any act or threatened act of violence, including any forcible detention that results in physical or mental harm, psychological or sexual abuse, rape, molestation, incest, forced prostitution, and acts that may not appear violent but are part of a pattern of violence.5 Note: You must have been abused in the United States, or if you were solely abused abroad, then your spouse must have been an employee of the US government or a member of the US uniformed services (the military).6
  • You must have lived with the abuser at some point;7 and
  • You are a person of “good moral character.”8 Note: Even if you believe you have committed an act which may affect your ability to prove good moral character (for example, certain crimes), please talk to an immigration lawyer with experience in VAWA to see if there is an exception available for your situation.

1 INA § 204(a)(1)(A)(iii), INA § 204 (a)(1)(B)(ii)
2 INA § 204(a)(1)(A)(iii)(I)(aa), INA § 204(a)(1)(B)(ii)(I)(aa)
3 USCIS website – Battered Spouse, Children & Parents
4 INA § 204(a)(1)(A)(iii)(I)(bb), INA § 204(a)(1)(B)(ii)(I)(bb). You can also read more information on what is considered extreme cruelty and how to prove it here. This information is provided by an organization called ASISTA and may include complicated legal terms that are not written in plain language.
5 8 CFR § 204.2(c)(1)(vi)
6 INA § 204(a)(1)(A)(v), INA § 204(a)(1)(B)(iv)
7 INA § 204(a)(1)(A)(iii)(II)(dd), INA § 204(a)(1)(B)(ii)(II)(dd)
8 INA § 204(a)(1)(A)(iii)(II)(bb), INA § 204(a)(1)(B)(ii)(bb)