Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed by Congress in 1994, the spouses and children of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPR) may self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residency.

Where to Get Immediate Help

Victims of domestic violence should know that help is available to them through the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233or 1-800-787-3224 [TTY] for information about shelters, mental health care, legal advice and other types of assistance, including information about self-petitioning for immigration status.

Click here to find locations of Domestic Violence Shelters

Types of Spousal Abuse

Emotional Abuse – Can include threats and intimidation, demeaning and degrading verbal and body language, control and isolation, subordination and humiliation. Victims may suffer serious loss of self-esteem and experience feelings of shame, anxiety, hopelessness, depression and terror.

Sexual Abuse– Sexual acts within a marriage or intimate partnership must take place with consent. There is no “right” to sexual relations.

Physical Violence– Can involve a threat with a fist or object; being pushed or shoved in a way that could result in injury; being slapped, hit or beaten; being hit or attacked with an object.

Possible Evidence of Abuse– Can be medical bills, photographs taken by a friend or neighbor at the time you are bruised or wounded by abuse, witnesses confirming your abusive relationship, reports from a psychologist and etc.


It takes courage to get out of an unhealthy relationship and talk to a lawyer. Our firm will provide the needed friendly and individual environment and listen to your story.

About the VAWA Act of 1994

The Act is generally designed to improve on efforts made in 1994 to prevent immigration law from being used by an abusive citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse as a tool to prevent an abused immigrant spouse from reporting abuse or leaving the abusive relationship. In the case of the abusive relationship, an abusive citizen or lawful permanent resident can use control over his or her spouse’s visa as a means to blackmail and control the spouse. The abusive spouse would do this by withholding a promised visa petition and then threatening to turn the abused spouse in to the immigration authorities if the abused spouse sought to leave the abuser or report the abuse.VAWA 1994 changed this by allowing immigrants who demonstrate that they have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses to file their own petitions for visas without the cooperation of their abusive spouse.