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What Is a VAWA Green Card or Cancellation of Removal?

Updated: Mar 13


If you have been abused by your spouse or another family member, you do not have to stay with your abusive spouse. Instead, you can self-petition for immigration status using VAWA.

In the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Congress allowed certain people who have been victims of abuse to self-petition for immigration benefits and avoid removal. This means you do not have to rely on your abusive spouse or family member for your immigration status - you can petition for yourself.


If you believe you qualify for a green card pursuant to VAWA, you should contact an immigration lawyer to help with your petition. It's a complicated process that requires many documents. It's very difficult to do it on your own.


The following guide is meant for informational purposes only. You should not rely on it as a complete guide to VAWA green card applicants.


Does VAWA Apply to Men?

Yes. Even though VAWA includes the word "women," you can still apply for a green card through VAWA if you're a man.


Who Can Qualify for VAWA?

You must have been "battered or subject to extreme cruelty" to qualify for VAWA. VAWA applies if you are subject to abuse from any of the following people:

  • A spouse or former spouse who is a citizen or LPR (green card holder)

  • A parent who is a citizen or LPR

  • A child who is a citizen

In addition to these requirements, the other items are also required:

  • The marriage was bona fide (if immigration based on marriage)

  • You live in the United States or were abused in the United States

  • You lived with the abuser

  • You're of good moral character

There are exceptions to these requirements. You should consult with a qualified immigration lawyer to assess whether you qualify for VAWA.


If you have been abused, your children can qualify for VAWA status, even if they themselves were not abused. This is called a derivative beneficiary.


Can I Get a Divorce and Still Qualify for VAWA?

You do NOT have to stay married to your abusive spouse to qualify for VAWA. If you divorced your spouse within the last two years and that divorce was connected to the abuse, you can still qualify for VAWA. You can also still qualify if your spouse died within the last two years.


What Documents Do I Need to Prove for a VAWA Claim?

The most important document is a detailed statement from you, but other documents can help. These documents can include police reports, medical records, pictures, and statements from other people who know about your situation.


What if I'm Already in Removal Proceedings?

If you're in removal proceedings, you can still qualify for VAWA cancellation of removal. This has similar requirements to a VAWA self-petitioner.



If you believe you qualify for a VAWA green card, it's critical to contact an immigration attorney to help prepare your case. The process can be difficult and complex, and an immigration lawyer can help prepare your case. I handle immigration cases, including VAWA petitions, all over Massachusetts. Contact me at 617-356-8217 or visit my office in Boston, Mass, and let's get started.