Unfortunately, immigration lawyers around the country often get calls from petrified non-U.S. citizens who are in an abusive relationship and living in fear of deportation. A United States citizen who marries a non-citizen can file an I-130 petition on the spouses behalf to pave the way for the immigrant spouse to obtain a greencard. If the United States citizen withdraws the petition, the immigrant spouse can no longer adjust based on the marriage to the U.S. citizen. So, in some situations, U.S. citizens take advantage of this leverage to abuse and control the non-citizen spouse. They say things like, “If you don’t do what I say, I’ll have you deported.” They threaten to call immigration and withdraw the petition. They threaten deportation if the abused non-citizen spouse contacts law enforcement. For these reasons, the government passed a specific act to protect these victims. It is called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and it allows an abused spouse to obtain a greencard, even if the U.S. citizen spouse withdraws the I-130 petition and even if they divorce their U.S. citizen spouse.
What is VAWA?
The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA is a federal law that was passed in 1994 designed to address domestic violence against women. The law is broad and encompassing, but one of the goals of VAWA was to protect immigrant victims of domestic violence and to help them escape their abusers. VAWA allows immigrant spouses or intended spouses of United States citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents to obtain a greencard (lawful permanent resident status) without the need to have the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse petition on his or her behalf.