Question: I entered the U.S. illegally. I am married to a U.S. citizen, but he is abusive. Can I still apply for a green card under VAWA?
Answer: Yes, a VAWA self-petitioner can still apply for a green card despite entering the U.S. without inspection.
The Violence Against Women Act
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (“VAWA”) allows a noncitizen who has been abused by his or her U.S. citizen or lawful permanent relative to apply for a green card without the abuser’s knowledge, consent, or participation. A person may be eligible to obtain a green card through a VAWA self-petition if he or she is the victim of abuse by any of the following relatives:
- A spouse who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder),
- A former spouse who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder if the marriage ended within the past 2 years,
- A parent who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder, or
- A child who is a U.S. citizen over the age of 21.
Illegal Entry and VAWA
U.S. immigration law defines several scenarios that will make someone ineligible to receive a green card, or “inadmissible.” These scenarios include: infection with certain communicable diseases, certain criminal activity, threats to national security, public charge, fraud or misrepresentation, prior deportations, and illegal entry into the U.S.
However, there are some exceptions for a VAWA self-petitioner. For example, a VAWA self-petitioner may obtain a green card even if he or she entered the U.S. illegally.
Other grounds of inadmissibility and VAWA
Although illegal entry into the U.S. does not constitute a ground of inadmissibility for a VAWA self-petitioner, other grounds of inadmissibility may prevent a VAWA self-petitioner from obtaining a green card. For example, if a VAWA self-petitioner committed certain crimes or lied to obtain a visa, these factors might prevent the applicant from obtaining a green card. However, even if a VAWA self-petitioner is inadmissible under some other ground of inadmissibility, he or she may be able to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility. If USCIS grants a VAWA self-petitioner a waiver, then USCIS might approve the applicant’s green card. Whether a waiver or other form of relief is available to a VAWA self-petitioner is dependent upon the specific inadmissibility grounds.
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ImmiFree.Law is The Harrison Law Firm P.C.’s online platform to make the family immigration and naturalization process more efficient, accurate, and affordable. Baya Harrison, Esq. is an attorney licensed in New York, Florida, and California. Attorney Harrison has helped numerous individuals and families navigate the U.S. immigration process, specifically family-based petitions and naturalization.