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Legal Information: Federal

Immigration

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Updated: 
May 17, 2021

Can I file for a VAWA self-petition if I am in another country?

If you otherwise qualify for a self-petition, you can apply while you are in another country if any of the following are true:

  1. The abuser is an employee of the US government or a member of the US military, and s/he abused you while you were both living abroad;
  2. The abuser is an employee of the US government or a member of the US military, the abuser is/was your spouse, and s/he abused your child while you were both living abroad;
  3. You are currently living abroad and the abuser abused you while you were in the United States; or
  4. You are currently living abroad, the abuser is/was your spouse, and the abuser abused your child while you were in the United States.1

For numbers 3 or 4 above, it does not matter if the abuser is living with you abroad or not.

Note: If you are currently in the US and you are planning to flee to another country and file for a VAWA self-petition, there are a few things that you should try to do before leaving the US since they will be easier to gather while you are in the US:

  • Gather proof of the abuse through any documents that may exist, such as police reports, doctors’ records, court orders, etc.
  • If you are 14 or over, obtain a police clearance for each place where you have lived for at least six months during the last three years. Alternatively, you can get an FBI background check, which covers all states.
  • Talk to any possible witnesses to the abuse who may be willing to write affidavits or statements on your behalf. Make sure you have multiple ways to contact them, such as their email address, phone number, and social media accounts so you can reach them.
  • Find an immigration attorney in the US who is willing to help you even if you are living abroad. Then, decide together the best way to communicate with each other once you leave, such as email, WhatsApp, etc. The attorney should be able to help you figure out what other evidence you will need to gather and how much time you will need to collect it all before leaving the US.

1 INA §§ 204(a)(1)(A)(v), (a)(1)(B)(iv). See also USCIS Policy Memorandum, “Eligibility to Self-Petition as a Battered or Abused Parent of a U.S. Citizen; Revisions to Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapter 21.15 (AFM Update AD 06-32),” PM-602-0046, August 30, 2011.