Is Physical Abuse Required in a VAWA Case?



Filing a self-petition based on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has helped many individuals, and many of our clients, secure a work permit, social security card, permanent residence, and ultimately U.S. citizenship.  There is a common misconception that physical abuse is a prerequisite for a successful VAWA petition. While physical abuse can be a factor, it is not a requirement for eligibility under VAWA.  In fact, many of our clients are successful with their VAWA petitions when there is little or no physical abuse present.


VAWA recognizes various forms of abuse beyond physical violence, including emotional, psychological, sexual, verbal, and financial abuse. This broad definition acknowledges the diverse ways in which individuals may experience abuse within intimate relationships. Therefore, survivors who have experienced non-physical forms of abuse, including controlling behavior from an abusive spouse, parent or child, may still be eligible to seek protection and relief under VAWA. In addition, most of our VAWA cases qualify to concurrently apply for a green card.  Accordingly, those who file a VAWA self-petition, as well as an adjustment of status application, can receive work authorization, a social security number, and a green card.  



When evaluating a VAWA case, immigration authorities consider the totality of the circumstances and the evidence presented by the applicant. Documentation such as police reports, medical records, affidavits from witnesses, and statements from mental health professionals can all contribute to establishing a pattern of abuse, regardless of whether it is physical or non-physical in nature.  Please note, however, a police report is not required for a successful VAWA self-petition.




Survivors must understand that they have rights and options under VAWA, regardless of the specific type of abuse they have experienced. Seeking assistance from a knowledgeable immigration attorney who is experienced in VAWA cases can help survivors navigate the complexities of the legal process, gather the necessary evidence, and advocate effectively for their rights.

10.0Pratibha Kanive Agarwal
top attorney 2022

Agarwal Law Group

1100 H Street NW,

Suite 1220

Washington DC 20005