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Frequently Asked Questions About the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Answered

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

Here at the Law Office of S.A. Peterkin we often hear from individuals who are unsure if they will qualify for a VAWA-based petition.

A VAWA-based petition is a self-petition for lawful residence under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). With this option the immigrant victim of domestic violence may file a green card petition for themselves (and their children), without the abuser's knowledge.

Here are a few of the most common questions we receive regarding filing a self-petition based on VAWA:


Yes. Physical abuse is not the requisite form of abuse for VAWA petitions. Abuse is defined broadly under U.S. immigration laws and encompasses many types of abuse such as acts of psychological, verbal, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse. Many times, victims of non-physical abuse may not recognize that they are victims.

Attorney Peterkin is trained to properly screen for and recognize acts of abuse. She has years of experience filing successful VAWA cases to properly expound on, document, and advocate that the victim has satisfied all the legal requirements of a VAWA case.

WILL MY SPOUSE FIND OUT THAT I’VE FILED A VAWA PETITION? The VAWA application process is confidential. USCIS is legally forbidden from sharing the information found in VAWA petitions. Additionally, you are allowed to designate a safe mailing address to which USCIS will send all of your correspondence. CAN I FILE A VAWA PETITION IF I DO NOT HAVE A POLICE REPORT? Yes. While a police report would be beneficial in a VAWA case, it is not required. In fact, it is very common that police reports are absent in VAWA filings. Victims of domestic violence often suffer alone and in silence. There are many reasons that prevent a victim from reporting their abuse to law enforcement including fear of retaliation and economic reasons. In the context of immigrant victims, they have the compounded fear of deportation and permanent separation from their children. There are other ways to document the abuse. An attorney experienced in filing VAWA cases can work with you to overcome evidential hurdles. CAN I STILL QUALIFY FOR VAWA IF I AM DIVORCED FROM MY ABUSER? Yes, you can file a VAWA petition while you are still married to your abuser, or if your marriage to your abuser was terminated within 2 years prior to the date of filing the VAWA petition and you can demonstrate a connection to the abuse and the termination of the marriage. To schedule a case evaluation to determine your eligibility to self-petition for permanent residence under VAWA, call us at 321-325-1125 or send us a message through our company website.

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