VAWA Frequently Asked Questions

What does VAWA stand for?

The Violence Against Women Act.

What is the purpose of VAWA?

The purpose of VAWA is to provide protection and immigration benefits to victims of domestic violence and other forms of abuse, allowing them to escape abusive situations and pursue lawful immigration status independently.

Who is eligible for VAWA protection and benefits?

To be eligible for VAWA benefits, you must meet specific criteria:

Be the victim of battery or extreme cruelty by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or in some cases, adult child.

Have a qualifying relationship with the abuser.

Demonstrate good moral character.

Show evidence of the abuse and its connection to the need for VAWA protection.

What benefits can VAWA recipients receive?

VAWA beneficiaries may be eligible for several benefits, including:

VAWA self-petitioning to seek lawful permanent residency (a green card).

Work authorization while their VAWA petition is pending.

Protection from deportation while their VAWA petition is pending.

Can men also apply for VAWA benefits?

Yes, VAWA provides protection and benefits to both female and male victims of domestic violence and abuse, regardless of their gender.

Do I need to have an approved VAWA petition to leave an abusive relationship or obtain a protective order?

No, you do not need to have an approved VAWA petition to leave an abusive relationship, obtain a protective order, or seek help from law enforcement. VAWA offers protection and benefits to victims but does not require a prior petition approval for these actions.

Can I apply for VAWA if my abusive spouse has passed away?

Yes, you may still be eligible to file a VAWA self-petition if your abusive spouse has passed away, provided you meet all other eligibility criteria.

Can I apply for VAWA if I am divorced from my abusive spouse?

Yes, you may still be eligible to file a VAWA self-petition if you are divorced from your abusive spouse, as long as you meet all other eligibility criteria and apply within two years of the divorce.

How do I apply for VAWA benefits?

The process generally involves:

Filing a VAWA self-petition (Form I-360) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Providing supporting documentation and evidence of the abuse.

Attending a USCIS interview (if required).

If approved, applying for lawful permanent residency (a green card) through adjustment of status (Form I-485) or consular processing (if outside the U.S.).

Is there a filing fee for VAWA self-petitions?

There is a filing fee for the Form I-360 VAWA self-petition. However, USCIS offers fee waivers for those who cannot afford to pay.
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Tony Montana
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Dana Davidson - Full Bio

Dana T. Davidson holds degrees from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and State University of New York at Stony Brook and has been practicing immigration law since 2003 in New York and nationwide. She represents corporations, individuals, and families in a broad range of immigration matters. Attorney Davidson has offices in New York City and Glen Cove.


  • Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, New York, New York
  • Juris Doctor – 1988
  • Honors: Moot Court Board, Member, Judge
  • State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York
  • Bachelor of Arts – 1982
  • Major: Political Science
  • Concentration: Business

Pro-Bono Activities

  • Safe Passage Project, Volunteer Attorney, 2013-Present
  • Educating the Educators, Founder, 2012-Present
  • Momentum Project, Board Member, 1991-1994 Bar Admission
  • New York, Eastern District
  • New York, Southern District
  • Washington, D.C.

Speaking Engagements
  • AILA RDC-EMEA Spring Conference 2018, Berlin, Germany, Speaker on “Public Charge” panel
  • AILA RDC-EMEA Fall Conference 2018, Johannesburg, South Africa, Speaker: “Practice Management in the New Age” panel
  • AILA RDC-EMEA Spring Conference 2018, Madrid, Spain, Speaker: “El Traje de Luces: Self-Sponsored Petitions – EB-1A and NIW”  AILA RDC-EMEA Spring Conference 2017, Brussels, Belgium, Speaker: “Continuing Blanket L Challenges”
  • Safe Passage Project, March 2017, Speaker: “Representing Unaccompanied Minors: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and the Effects of President Trump’s Executive Orders on Immigration”
  • AILA RDC-EMEA Fall Conference 2016, Speaker: “It’s Not About Money: I-864”
  • AILA RDC-EMEA Spring Conference 2016, Vienna, Austria, Speaker: “K-Visa: Differences Between K-1 and I-130 Processing”
  • New York Institute of Technology’s Center for Entrepreneurship, January 2016, Entrepreneur/Executive-in-Residence
  • AILA Fall Conference 2015, London, UK, Speaker: Impact of joint sponsors on family-based cases
  • Goldman-Sachs 10,000 Small Business Education Program, October 2014, “What is required to grow a business?”
  • Dowling College, May 2013, Keynote Speaker at the first annual Latino Summit at Dowling College
  • International Taxation Conference, 2010