VAWA Immigration Provisions

Some experts claim that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), intended to help women who are victims of domestic abuse, is being abused and manipulated by women who want to obtain green cards more quickly. These experts allege that some women are speeding up the application process by filing false claims of abuse against their sponsoring spouses.

Many legal immigrants to the US must wait for months or even years to obtain a green card or US citizenship. Of all the methods of immigration, marrying a US citizen can be one of the faster ways to secure a green card. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) usually grants an immigrant a conditional green card once a couple have passed the immigration interview. Two years after obtaining a green card, the couple go through another interview, which helps the USCIS determine that the marriage is a genuine one. Through the entire immigration process, the immigrant spouse is dependent on the US citizen spouse remaining a sponsor.

In a happy marriage the process works well. However, in the past an abusive marriage placed the newcomer in a difficult situation. If the immigrant spouse left the abusive relationship, they would lose the sponsorship of their US spouse and would be deported. However, remaining with the spouse allowed the abuse to continue. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was created to prevent this situation. The law, among other things, allows a woman to leave an abusive US spouse without having to worry about deportation. If a woman is abused, she is immediately granted permanent status and does not have to undergo the second immigration interview with the US spouse.

However, some immigration experts say that the law is subject to abuse, with some women marrying US citizens just to come to the US and then falsely accusing those partners of abuse so that they can get green cards without having to remain in the marriage. Since the women do not have to undergo a second USCIS interview, the experts allege, there is also fewer checks to ensure that fraud is not taking place.

Abuse of the VAWA is troubling for many reasons. For one, it allows a US citizen to be duped into a sham marriage and then falsely accused of a crime. Many police departments have automatic arrest provisions in cases of domestic abuse, so a falsely accused spouse may find themselves facing a criminal record or even jail time, even if they did nothing wrong. Abuse of the law may also make it harder for women in genuinely abusive situations to get help. Once authorities start looking at VAWA cases with a wary eye due to the abuse in the system, it is possible that women who genuinely do need help may not be able to easily secure it.