Quick Escape

VAWA Self-Petition

For spouses or former spouses of US citizens or permanent residents

The Service Center will not disclose information about applicants to anyone other than government officers and only for legitimate purposes. The Service Center will not rely on information or evidence provided by the abuser unless it is confirmed by another source.

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In order to file a VAWA Self-Petition, the survivor petitioner must be a spouse or former spouse of a U.S. citizen or an legal permanent resident. If the survivor is divorced or thinks she may be divorced soon, she must file the self-petition within two years of the date the divorce was granted. The survivor may file for legal permanent resident status for her children even if the children were not abused and are not the children of the abuser. Abused children may file for themselves, and for their children. Un-abused spouses can file for themselves and their children if those children were abused.

The Self-Petition process is described below but it is best to talk to an immigration attorney and your local domestic violence advocate before beginning the process. Many resources are listed at the bottom of this page. If an immigrant is eligible to self-petition, the first step is to fill out the self-petitioning papers and file them with the Vermont Service Center. This Center deals with all self-petitions. The people who work there are trained in domestic violence. After filing this paperwork, the survivor fills out a form to adjust her status. This is the form that will get her a green card, if it is approved. The survivor can also apply for a work permit at the same time.

No fee is required to file the self-petition, but some fees may apply for other forms and filings. The Service Center may waive the fees if it would be difficult for the person to pay. There are other forms that must be filled out and filed as well. If the abuser is a U.S. citizen and the self-petition is approved, the petitioner will likely get her green card quickly, although there may be an interview required. If the abuser is a legal permanent resident and the self-petition is approved, the survivor may have to wait until an immigrant visa is available, due to backlogs for immigrant visas. However, once the self-petition is approved, the petitioner may apply for a work permit and may stay in the U.S. until the waiting period is over. Then the petitioner will apply for adjustment of status, the form that leads to the green card.

To succeed in a self-petition, the petitioner must show several things. The Vermont Service Center will consider lots of different items and documents (evidence) when considering a self-petition case. Generally a petitioner must prove the following:

  • Marriage to the U. S. citizen or the LPR; or parent/child relationship;
  • Good faith marriage; even if the spouse was already married to someone else, if the self-petitioner can show that they married in good faith, that will fulfill this requirement;
  • Lived with the abuser during the marriage for some period of time;
  • Battery or extreme cruelty during the marriage; and
  • Good moral character.

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