Self Petitioning Battered or Abused Spouse or Child of a U.S. Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows battered immigrants to petition for legal status in the United States without relying on abusive U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouses, parents or children to sponsor their application for adjustment of status. If you are married to a U.S. Citizen (USC) or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR, green card holder) and during your marriage you or your child has been subjected to battery, abuse or domestic violence by your USC or LPR spouse, you are eligible to file a self-petition. As unfortunate as it is many USCs and LPRs use the statuses of their alien spouses to their advantage, and what we many times see is a foreign national taking abuse from his or her spouses in fear of deportation, and being taken away from their children.


The Violence Against Women Act was developed and passed as a result of extensive grassroots efforts in the early 1990s, with professionals from the victim services field, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices, the courts, and the private bar urging Congress to adopt significant legislation to address domestic violence. Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA’s focus has expanded to address—in addition to domestic violence—dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. It funds services to protect adult, teen, and child victims of these crimes, and supports training on these issues, to ensure consistent responses across the country. One of the greatest successes of VAWA is its emphasis on a coordinated community response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking; courts, law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services, and the private bar currently work together in a coordinated effort that had not heretofore existed on the state and local levels.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS LAW APPLIES EQUALLY TO MEN AND WOMEN. This means that VAWA despite its name applies to men as well.

Mr. Galstyan is a strong advocate for immigrants’ rights. He frequently conducts seminars and trains other immigration attorneys on how to effectively represent a client in a VAWA case and how to present a VAWA case to the USCIS. Please note that even if you entered illegally and married a USC or an LPR you may still be eligible to file under VAWA. This is one thing that Atty. Galstyan encounters in his practice a lot, people being scared to come forward with the abuse because they think that because they entered the U.S. illegally, there cannot be an immigration benefit for them and in fear of deportation these aliens are taking abuse, battery, and extreme emotional cruelty from their spouses.

If you entered the U.S. illegally/without inspection

In October 2000, section 1506(a) of Public Law 106-386 amended section 245(a) of the Act so that the “inspection and admission or parole” requirement does not apply to an alien who is seeking adjustment of status as a VAWA self-petitioner. Section 1506(a), therefore, eliminated at least one bar to granting adjustment of status to a VAWA self-petitioner.

Abuse and Battery

Abuse and domestic violence has many forms including physical aggression (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation. Alcohol/drug consumption and mental illness can be co-morbid with abuse and present additional challenges when present alongside patterns of abuse.

Physical abuse includes hitting, slapping, punching, choking, pushing, and other types of contact that result in physical injury to the victim. Physical abuse can also include behaviors such as denying the victim of medical care when needed, depriving the victim of sleep or other functions necessary to live, or forcing the victim to engage in drug/alcohol use against his/her will. It can also include inflicting physical injury onto other targets, such as children or pets, in order to cause psychological harm to the victim.

Sexual abuse is any situation in which force is used to obtain participation in unwanted sexual activity. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom consensual sex has occurred, is an act of aggression and violence.

Verbal abuse is a form of abusive behavior involving the use of language. It is a form of profanity that can occur with or without the use of expletives. Abusers may ignore, ridicule, disrespect, and criticize others consistently; manipulate words; purposefully humiliate; falsely accuse; manipulate people to submit to undesirable behavior; make others feel unwanted and unloved; threaten economically; place the blame and cause of the abuse on others; isolate victims from support systems; harass; etc.

Economic abuse occurs when the abuser has control over the victim’s money and other economic resources. In its extreme (and usual) form, this involves putting the victim on a strict “allowance”, withholding money at will and forcing the victim to beg for the money until the abuser gives them some money. It is common for the victim to receive less money as the abuse continues. This also includes (but is not limited to) preventing the victim from finishing education or obtaining employment, or intentionally squandering or misusing communal resources.

If you are married to a USC or an LPR and believe you have been subjected to any of the abuses discussed above, please contact our office now for a free confidential consultation about your case. Atty. Galstyan will go over the facts of your case and tall you the best available solution to it. Contact us now.

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