Can I self petition VAWA even after I've been divorced?
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal act designed to protect vulnerable spouses and children. It is recognition that the United States does not condone illegal/immoral behavior of U.S. citizens and green card holders. The program allows victims of battery or extreme cruelty to get green cards. This is true even if the person who was abused is in the U.S. without legal authorization. In essence, the government’s position is "we value the well-being of people more than somebody’s lack of legal presence". It is an appropriate policy.
Authorities are well-aware of abusive situations which arise because of family relationships between an American citizen (or green card holder) and someone who does not have valid immigration status. A hallmark of the abuse are threats to “tell immigration” about the other person’s lack of status. This assertion is typically part of an effort to “control” the other person.
Because the government wants to protect the vulnerable, a victim may file for a green card on their own. This is known as a self-petition; it does not need the assistance of the abuser. In fact, the abusive person will not even know you have filed. Authorities have special provisions for communicating with VAWA applicants to avoid the abuser learning of the self-application. There are also special confidentiality protections in place. In short, a victim may file for a green card without the abuser’s knowledge, consent, or participation.
As with any immigration request, evidence is critical. With a VAWA submission compelling proof of abuse must be provided. This is a discretionary matter meaning the decision is subjective, so the evidence has to be persuasive.
The VAWA program does work, and many people have benefited from the opportunity to self-petition. While it may seem on the surface that a person has no choice but to accept a terrible relationship, there is hope.