Legal Information: Federal


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August 15, 2022

If I am the child or step-child of an abuser, do I qualify?

If you are under age 21 and not married, you may qualify for a VAWA self-petition if you answer “yes” to any of the questions below:

  1. Is your abusive parent a US citizen or lawful permanent resident?
  2. Is your abusive step-parent a US citizen or lawful permanent resident and s/he married your parent when you were age 17 or younger?
  3. Is your abusive adoptive parent a US citizen or lawful permanent resident and were you adopted before you turned 16?
  4. Did your abusive parent lose her or his status as a US citizen or lawful permanent resident within the past two years because of the abuse?1

If you are over 21 and not married, however, you may still be able to file a VAWA self-petition if:

  • you file before you turn 25;
  • you can prove that when you were under 21, you would have qualified to file a self-petition; and
  • you can prove that the abuse was a “central reason” for not filing before you turned 21.2

Another possible immigration remedy for a child who was abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). It is important to know that you can still be considered to be “abandoned” by one parent even if you are living with, and being supported by, your other parent. If SIJ classification is granted, you may qualify for lawful permanent residency. You can read more about the requirements on the website or on (WomensLaw is not affiliated with that organization.) Please talk to a lawyer who specializes in SIJS for specific advice.

1 INA § 204(a)(1)(A)(iv), (a)(1)(B)(iii)
2 INA § 204(a)(1)(D)(v)

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