Immigration Relief for Abused Noncitizens: Form I-360 & Violence Against Women Act

image of US Immigration and VAWA petition

This immigration form is intended to provide relief for noncitizen immigrants who are facing abuse, or whose children are facing abuse from a relative who is either a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen.

Created under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the form allows a battered person (female or male) to self-petition the federal government to change his or her immigration status without the abuser knowing. Normally, a noncitizens’ immigration status is dependent on his or her relative, who is a legal permanent resident or U.S. citizen. In order for the noncitizen to remain in the country and become a citizen, he or she must rely on the relative to petition the government on his or her behalf. If the relative is abusive to the noncitizen, then they may use their power to subject that person to further abuse.

Let’s explore this scenario with an example case. Victoria’s husband immigrates to the United States and becomes a lawful permanent resident. He applies for a family visa for Victoria to join him in the U.S. While living their new life in America, Victoria’s husband becomes aggressive toward her. When it’s time for Victoria to update her immigration status and apply for permanent residency, her husband threatens to derail her application unless Victoria agrees to his demands. Through VAWA, Victoria can safely change her immigration status without her husband knowing.


Form I-360 has an Alternative/Safe Address option. Many petitioners may decide that for their safety, they wish USCIS to direct their correspondence to another address (not the petitioner’s home address). The petitioner can elect to do this by filling in Part 1, Item Number 7 of their form. This address can be a relative’s home, a post office box, an attorney’s office or a community based organization that is helping you.

VAWA vs U Visa

The U.S. government offers a few different immigration options for noncitizens who face domestic abuse, VAWA and the U Visa are two options. Selecting which visa to apply for depends on your circumstances and whether you are safe enough to bring charges against your abuser. Below are some of the highlighted differences:

U Visa

  • Annual cap of 10,000 U visas can be awarded.
  • You must be a direct or indirect victim of a crime.
  • You must be willing to help law enforcement with their investigation.
  • You do not need a qualifying relative.
  • You must show evidence of substantial mental or physical abuse.
  • You can extend this visa to cover other immediate family members.
  • If approved the petitioner will also get employment authorization.

Learn more about U visas by reading this article.

VAWA

  • No annual cap.
  • Either the petitioner or the petitioner’s child can be the victim of abuse.
  • Do not have to involve law enforcement.
  • Petitioners must have a qualifying relative to apply. This mean that your abuser is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and who is either your spouse, parent or adult child.
  • Must show evidence of “good moral character,” as well as evidence of mental or physical abuse.
  • Petitioners can also extend this visa to cover their child dependents (who are unmarried and under 21).
  • If approved the petitioner can also get employment authorization, so long as they specify YES on the I-130 form.

If you need help deciding on which visa to apply for, please request a free consultation with our immigration attorneys.

VAWA eligibility

Petitioners can apply if they have a qualifying relative. A qualifying relative is the abusive family member who is either a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or U.S. citizen. Petitioners can be:

  • A spouse of the abuser
  • A parent of the abuser
  • A child of an abuser

If the petitioner is filing as a spouse who is married to an abusive LPR or U.S. citizen, then the marriage must be legal and entered into in good faith (not married for immigration benefits). The abuse must have taken place in the United States, (or abroad if the abuser is a U.S. government employee) where they lived together. A spouse can also apply if they recently divorced or the abusive spouse died, so long as the petitioner files within two years of the event.

If the petitioner is a child of an abusive parent who is an LPR or U.S. citizen, then the petitioner must be unmarried and under the age of 21. He or she must have resided with the abusive parent either in the United States or abroad if the abuser is a government employee. If the petitioner is over the age of 14, then he or she must supply evidence of good moral character.

Evidence you will need

Before your I-360 can be submitted, the petitioner will need to collect and attach to their form various types of evidence. In order for USCIS to approve an I-360 VAWA visa, they must make sure that the petitioner is married to, or is a child or parent of a U.S. citizen or LPR. They will also be looking to see that the petitioner has good moral character and was the victim of abuse at the hands of the qualifying relative.

Below is a list of types of evidence to include. However, this list is not meant to be exhaustive and is largely case dependent.

  • Personal declaration. This is the first piece of evidence. It should include how you know the abuser, the development of your relationship and how the abuse started. Make sure to be detailed and list dates associated with each event, include descriptions and dates of the abuse. Finally include in your description evidence of your good moral character. Things like volunteerism or helping a family member is evidence of good moral character.
  • Proof of relationship to abuser. Examples: birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, etc.
  • Proof of abuser’s status as a LPR or U.S. Citizenship. Examples: copy of their passport or green card.
  • Proof that you and the abuser have resided together. Examples: mortgages, rental agreements, utility receipts, insurance statements, bills and/or other pieces of mail with both persons’ names and address.
  • Evidence of the abuse. Examples: Police reports, protection orders, affidavits from medical personnel, social workers, school officials or clergy.
  • Evidence of good moral character. Examples: Affidavit of good moral character signed by the petitioner and a local police clearance or state-issued background check for every state where you have resided for six months or more in the last three years.
  • Evidence showing your marriage was entered in good faith. Examples: Sworn affidavits of third parties testifying to the validity of the marriage, bank statements showing the commingling of funds, taxes showing joint filing, a lease or mortgage showing joint tenancy of a common residence.

Note: our Colorado immigration attorneys recommend compiling an evidence folder that utilizes many different types of evidence – don’t just send one or two things that are similar – send a variety of evidence for proving your good moral character, relationship with the abuser and evidence of abuse.

If your background check isn’t clean

Those who have criminal marks on their record, like drug abuse, may be ineligible to become permanent residents. However, waivers do exist to help immigrants with “bad marks,” but the type of waiver depends on the person’s individual circumstance.

It’s best to contact a Robinson & Henry immigration attorney who can help identify any background check issues and how they can be addressed before your I-360 is submitted. Request a free consultation online or call us at 303-688-0944.