To get a visa or other form of citizenship, immigrants often have to rely on national citizens. They may be relatives or spouses. But what happens if the relative you rely on is also your abuser?
Many immigrants end up trapped in this exact situation. If you are, is there anything you can do about it? You might find surprising aid in VAWA.
VAWA expansions for vulnerable populations
The American Immigration Council discusses the way VAWA offers aid to immigrants. VAWA, or the Violence Against Women Act, sets out to protect victims of domestic abuse and violence. Since its establishment, it has undergone constant expansions. These expansions involve more resources and more protections for the most vulnerable of populations. For example, the newest version waiting on approval will focus on expansions for Native American populations.
VAWA also offers a self-petition for immigrants suffering from abuse. A self-petition allows you to petition for status as a legal permanent resident on your own. This way, you do not need to rely on a family member or spouse who may also act as a potential abuser. You can even self-petition after a divorce, as long as you act within two years of your marriage’s termination.
You can also self-petition without limit in a given year. But note that a self-petition will rank lower than other forms of application for LPR status. Some immigrants must petition multiple times before gaining LPR status. Some cases get denied as well. Still, it is a potential avenue to explore if you are looking into becoming a resident of the U.S. but have to deal with an abusive native citizen as your point of contact.