The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows certain victims of domestic violence to apply for a green card, even if they are going through removal/deportation proceedings.
To be eligible for a green card through VAWA, you must be a victim of battery or extreme cruelty committed by:
- A U.S. citizen spouse or former spouse;
- A U.S. citizen parent;
- A U.S. citizen son or daughter;
- A lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or former spouse; or
- An LPR parent.
Additionally, you must:
- Have been in the U.S. for more than 3 years before the removal proceedings;
- Have demonstrated good moral character for at least the past 3 years;
- Not be subject to any of the grounds of inadmissibility under U.S. immigration law;
- Not have been convicted of an aggravated felony; and
- Show that your removal would result in extreme hardship for yourself, your children, or at least one of your parents.
How to Define “Battery or Extreme Cruelty”
Under VAWA, “battery or extremely cruelty” is defined as:
“Any act or threatened act of violence [including forceful detention]; Psychological or sexual abuse or exploitation [including rape, molestation, incest (if the victim is a minor), or forced prostitution]; Acts that may not in and of themselves constitute violence, but taken together constitute an overall pattern of violence.”
How to Meet the Continuous Physical Presence Requirement
To meet the continuous physical presence requirement, look backward for 3 years from when you apply for cancellation. During those 3 years, you cannot have been gone from the United States for more than 90 days at one time. You must also not have been gone for more than 180 days total during the course of those 3 years.
However, if you can prove your conditions of abuse were the reason for your extended absence, you may have this requirement waived.
What Is “Good Moral Character?”
“Good moral character” simply refers to whether you’ve been a good member of the community. If you have drinking or gambling problems, you have participated in prostitution, or you have multiple drug convictions or sentences of more than six months, you may not be able to demonstrate “good moral character.”
How to Prove Extreme Hardship
Extreme hardship can entail a variety of problems, but one example is if you or your children would not be able to receive medical treatment needed for health, special needs, or disabilities. Another example is if someone who must stay in the United States relies on you financially or as a caretaker.
How to Petition for Cancellation of Removal
You must first face removal proceedings in immigration court. Typically, the judge should ask questions to see if you are eligible for VAWA Cancellation of Removal. If not, you can tell the judge you would like to apply for “VAWA Cancellation.” Either way, you should be given a copy of Form EOIR 42-B to fill out as the application for cancellation of removal.
Along with the form, you will need to show the judge evidence that you qualify for cancellation of removal. This evidence may include:
- Proof of your identity
- Proof of the abuse (in the form of police records, restraining orders, medical records, etc.)
- Personal declaration of your experience
- Proof of the abuser’s immigration status
- Proof of your residency in the United States (this goes toward the continuous physical presence requirement)
It can sometimes be difficult to gather proof of the abuse, so courts will often accept declarations from family members, friends, or anyone else who may have witnessed the abuse or spoke with you about it. Furthermore, remember that abuse does not have to be physical—it can be emotional or psychological. If you have seen a psychologist or have been prescribed medication by a doctor related to these forms of abuse, you can use documentation of this treatment as evidence.
Once you have gathered all necessary evidence, be prepared to present it along with the completed EOIR 42-B during what is called a “Master Calendar” hearing.
Don’t Go Through This Alone
This process can be difficult, both emotionally and procedurally. A skilled and experienced attorney can give you the best chance at successfully canceling your removal and getting a green card. At Yekrangi & Associates, we have helped countless individuals and families overcome all levels of obstacles throughout their immigration journeys.