VAWA and ILLEGAL ENTRY
Author: VAWA Attorney Alena Shautsova
VAWA stands for “Violence Against Women Act” and essentially allows certain non-citizens to obtain a green card by sponsoring themselves if they were in a qualifying relationship with a US citizen or a permanent resident. So, VAWA provisions may be used not only by married women but by men, children and certain parents.
One of the advantages of VAWA is that not only it allows a person to sponsor her/himself, but it also “erasers” certain grounds of inadmissibilities, and sometimes even works to waive the permanent bar!
For example, a VAWA beneficiary may receive a green card or adjust her status to one of a permanent resident even if she/her entered the US illegally. The VAWA self-petitioner is not required to show a “substantial connection” between the qualifying battery or extreme cruelty and the VAWA self-petitioner’s unlawful entry. Also, a VAWA beneficiary who spent in the US more than a year illegally and then left the US and returned back illegally may avoid the permanent bar imposed on regular applicants in similar circumstances, if they qualify for a waiver under INA 212(a)(9)(C)(iii). No waiver is available for non-VAWA petitioners.
VAWA petition is, however, not helpful for K visa entrants. There is a mistaken approach that if a person entered the US on a K-1 (fiance) visa, he/she will be able to receive a green card if qualifies for I 360. This is not so yet. I 360 may be granted, and automatically a person will get a deferred action – protection from removal, but not the green card. The adjustment of status for most such persons will be denied.
Now, persons who are abused or battered but do not have the required connection with a US citizen or a permanent resident, cannot benefit from the VAWA laws. For example, if X had to flee El Salvador due to a violent husband, she will still be required to demonstrate that she has a legal entry or parole into the US before her application for a green card is granted.