Pennsylvania VAWA Lawyers | Rosina Stambaugh
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Pennsylvania VAWA Immigration Attorney Helping Families Stay Together

Domestic violence is an unfortunate reality that is all too common in the United States and across the globe. We expect our spouses, parents, and children to love and care for us, and when they don’t, it can be confusing to figure out what’s going on and who may be able to help. If you are the immigrant spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, and that person is abusing you, you may wonder how you can leave if they are sponsoring — or plan to sponsor — your immigration. Keep reading to find out what your options are and how a Pennsylvania VAWA immigration lawyer can help you.

Anytime a relationship ends, it can create a great deal of chaos and challenges for those involved, but when your immigration status is involved, it’s even more complicated. If you are in an abusive relationship and aren’t sure how you can remain in the United States without your partner’s consent, we can help. Call our law firm today to find out what your options may be under the Violence Against Women Act and how to start your petition.

What Is a VAWA Petition?

VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) was passed in 1994. In it, the U.S. Congress recognized that the current setup for family-based immigration made it possible for an abusive spouse or family member to seek control of their victim by withholding — or threatening to withhold — sponsorship.

Family-based immigration in the United States requires that someone be sponsored by a family member or spouse who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident — also known as a Green Card holder. VAWA makes it possible for spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to file a self-petition for immigration classification. If the self-petition is approved, it offers a path toward seeking legal permanent residence without sponsorship.

Who Is Eligible to File a VAWA Self-Petition?

Eligibility for a VAWA self-petition depends on how you are related to your abuser and whether they are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Spouses and children may file for a VAWA self-petition if they have been abused and their abuser is either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Abused parents can only file a VAWA petition if their child is a U.S. citizen.

Spouses are able to file a petition even if they were not abused if their children were the victims of abuse, and you can include your unmarried children on your own petition as long as your children haven’t filed separately. Children generally are only eligible if they are under the age of 21, but this can be extended to 25 if the child is able to show that the abuse was the primary reason they weren’t able to file the petition by the age of 21.

Will I Have to Provide Proof of Abuse?

If you are planning on filing a VAWA self-petition, you need to be aware that you will need to provide some evidence that you or your children have been abused. The more documentation you are able to show, the better, so you may need to collect evidence and make a plan before trying to leave your abuser and file your petition. Examples of proof can be:

  • photo or video evidence of abuse,
  • a personal statement that includes your relationship with the person and the details of the abuse you suffered,
  • police reports, and
  • witness statements can also help strengthen your case.

What Are the Benefits of Being Approved Through VAWA?

When you are trying to make an independent life for yourself and your children away from your abuser, it can be difficult to ensure that your needs are met. One of the benefits of going through a VAWA self-petition is that once your petition has been submitted, you are given qualified alien status. This makes you eligible to apply for some state and federal benefits through Form I-360. This may help you get assistance with food or medical care.

Once your Form I-360 has been approved, you also receive work eligibility in the United States so that you can get a job and start supporting yourself and your family and be out of the financial control of your abuser.

It’s important to note that abused parents are not given automatic qualified alien status when filing a VAWA self-petition, so they will need to talk to a Pennsylvania VAWA immigration attorney about their options.

One of the benefits of going through the process of filing a VAWA self-petition is that it can offer a path to be able to gain lawful permanent resident status. You will need to have filed a Form I-360 and been approved, as well as meet the other qualifications for Green Card status.

What Should I Do If I’m Being Abused?

The United States has many resources for victims of domestic violence. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at any time at 800-799-7233. Those who operate the hotline can help connect you to local resources, including domestic violence shelters, assistance with clothes and food, and medical care. You should also reach out to an immigration attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you understand what your options are and can start the process of filing your VAWA petition quickly.

Contact a Pennsylvania VAWA Lawyer Today

No one deserves to be abused physically, mentally, emotionally, or sexually, and you certainly shouldn’t have to endure abuse for fear of having to leave your family and go back to your home country. If you need help filing a self-petition for immigration under VAWA, call The Law Office of Rosina C. Stambaugh at 717-900-1818.

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