Victims of domestic violence and their children can obtain legal permanent residence (green cards) if they have been abused by a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident relative. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) also applies to men.

Under immigration law, the term children included only unmarried persons under the age of 21. However, in some VAWA cases, foreign nationals over the age of 21 can also benefit.

A person filing a VAWA self-petition may still be considered a child until they reach the age of 25, if they can establish that the abuse was at least one central reason for the filing delay. Classic examples include abuse occurring around the child’s 21st birthday, which prevented the filing of the application.

Although the abuse must be at least one central reason for the delay, other reasons are relevant and should be brought to the attention of the immigration officer deciding the case. For example, in preparing late-filed VAWA cases, I request documents demonstrating that the mental or physical abuse was so distressing that it required years’ worth of treatment. In some cases, ineffective assistance of prior counsel also justifies the late filing.

Children over the age of 21 who can establish that the abuse was at least one central reason for the delay must keep in mind that they must have qualified for VAWA prior to turning 21. As this is an exception to the definition of a child, foreign nationals are advised to seek the advice of an attorney.

This communication is intended as general information and not specific legal advice, and this communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consultation with an experienced competent immigration attorney is the best way to address individual concerns.