No one should endure physical or emotional abuse. However, many men, women, and children go through these cruelties without protest, fearing the consequences of speaking out.
People going through the immigration process are especially vulnerable — abusive sponsors can use the process in an attempt to keep them silent.
However, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and VAWA cancellation of removal can help immigrants who’ve been abused by U.S. permanent residents and citizens.
What Does the VAWA Cancellation of Removal Do?
A cancellation of removal is also called a suspension of deportation — it’s a waiver allowing certain immigrants in removal or deportation proceedings to stay in the U.S. if they meet some requirements. A cancellation of removal is the way to stop deportation if you’ve been charged with an immigration offense.
The Violence Against Women Act has its own cancellation of removal for immigrants suffering from abuse.
The VAWA cancellation of removal protects those immigrants; however, not everyone can apply for it. A cancellation of removal is only for when the immigration authorities charge you with a violation (like an unlawful presence or overstaying a visa).
Who Qualifies for VAWA Cancellation of Removal?
You may qualify for VAWA cancellation of removal if you are:
- An intended, former, or abused spouse of a U.S. permanent resident or citizen
- An abused child of a U.S. permanent resident or citizen
- A non-abusive parent of a child that suffered from extreme cruelty or domestic violence by a U.S. permanent resident or citizen. (You do not have to have been abused).
However, abused immigrants who don’t qualify for a VAWA self-petition may qualify for VAWA cancellation of removal if they are:
- A parent of an abused child even if the parent was never married to the abusive citizen or permanent resident
- An abused spouse whose abuser has died or whose abused child died over two years ago
- An abused spouse divorced from their abuser for over two years
- A child abuse victim who didn’t file for VAWA before turning 21 or who cannot establish that they lived with the abusive parent
- An abused child or spouse of an abuser who lost their permanent resident status or renounced their citizenship over two years ago
- An abused stepchild whose parent divorced their abusive spouse more than two years ago
How to You Apply for a VAWA Cancellation of Removal
To apply for VAWA cancellation of removal, you must first be in removal proceedings. However, in some cases, it’s possible to be put into removal proceedings to apply for the cancellation by informing the immigration authorities that you’re unlawfully present in the US. This is typically not advised because it is very risky.
You should only consider this if you have no other way to qualify for a green card — if your cancellation of removal application gets denied, you will be ordered to leave the country. Whether immigration puts someone in removal proceedings depends on many factors that change with the political climate.
Once in removal proceedings, the Department of Homeland Security will issue a “Notice to Appear” document that formally shows you aren’t a national or citizen of the U.S, charging you with a violation of immigration law.
Then, you must appear in court and plead to the charges. In many cases, the immigrant and their attorney will concede to the charges to quickly get to the point where the court will consider a VAWA cancellation of removal application.
However, it’s important not to concede to charges of fraud or ones based on criminal grounds — these offenses often render the immigrant ineligible for VAWA cancellation of removal.
Are you applying for VAWA cancellation of removal or wondering if you’re eligible? Our immigration attorney experts can help — get in touch here.
What Are the Requirements for the VAWA Cancellation of Removal?
Other than the qualifications listed above, you must meet some additional requirements to remain in the U.S. through a VAWA cancellation of removal. In addition to being subject to extreme cruelty, battery, or abuse by a permanent resident or citizen spouse, parent, or child, you must:
- Have lived in the U.S. for over three years before going into removal proceedings
- Have had “good moral character” over the past three years
- Show that your removal would cause you, and/or your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parents and/or children hardship
- Not be subject to any grounds of admissibility according to immigration law
Finally, if your application is based on a marital relationship, you must prove that you entered into the marriage in good faith.
Can You File VAWA if You Are in Removal Proceedings?
Yes — if you’re currently in removal proceedings, you can apply for VAWA through the USCIS. If they approve your application, the judge for your immigration case can adjust your status (i.e., grant you a green card) in court.
This option can work well if you qualify for VAWA but your case might get delayed while waiting for USCIS approval and then waiting for your hearing date with a judge. In some cases, after USCIS approved your VAWA petition, you can have your court case terminated so you can then ask for your green card from USCIS.
If you qualify for VAWA and VAWA cancellation of removal and are in removal proceedings, it’s important to reach out to an immigration attorney to determine your best option.
How Long Does a VAWA Cancellation of Removal Take?
After appearing in court and pleading to your charges, you will then:
- State the relief from removal that you’re seeking
- Request cancellation of removal
- If necessary, ask for additional time to prepare and file your application with supporting documents
- Submit Form EOIR-42B along with the $100 filing fee and biometrics fee
- Prove your case in immigration court with supporting documents of your eligibility for VAWA cancellation removal
The time it takes for approval varies based on how prepared you are with the proper documentation, if you’re working with an immigration attorney, and other factors.
Can VAWA Stop Deportation?
If you don’t have any immigration status, are at risk of being deported in removal proceedings, or are a permanent resident that’s ineligible for other forms of cancellation of removal, VAWA cancellation may be able to stop your deportation.
Most people eligible for VAWA cancellation of removal can take a more direct path to getting a green card by self-petitioning with Form I-360 and Form I-485. However, VAWA cancellation has some advantages:
- It’s available at any time — even years after your marriage ended
- If you’re in removal proceedings and have a pending cancellation of removal application, you can apply for a work permit.
Are you a victim or parent of a victim of abuse from a U.S. permanent resident or citizen who is going through removal proceedings? VAWA cancellation of removal may help stop your deportation and get you your green card — see how we can help.
Can VAWA Cancellation of Removal Help You?
VAWA cancellation of removal is a defense to deportation for those who suffered emotional or physical abuse by a parent or spouse that is or was a U.S. permanent resident or citizen. In addition, it protects parents of children who suffered abuse.
If you apply successfully, you can avoid deportation and instead receive your green card. And although it’s called the Violence Against Women Act, it’s available to people of all genders.
Related: Green Card Denied? Here’s What Happens Next