Making The American Dream Attainable

If my marriage is a sham, can I still use VAWA?

On Behalf of | May 27, 2024 | Immigration |

As readers of this blog know, the Violence Against Women Act is a federal law that provides certain protections for individuals who have been victims of abuse by a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident. This includes spouses who have been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty. However, if you married your spouse for the green card (a sham marriage) and are now experiencing domestic violence, you may worry that these VAWA protections may not be available to you.

VAWA eligibility and sham marriages

Under VAWA, an abused spouse must prove several things to USCIS, including that the marriage was entered into in good faith. This means that the marriage was not primarily entered into because the individual wanted to gain immigration status.

However, it is important to note that even if one of the reasons for getting married was for immigration purposes, as long as the individuals also got married was because they wanted to spend their life together, the marriage could still be considered to have been entered into in good faith. Both can be true, and as such, your marriage would not necessarily be a sham marriage and be disqualified under VAWA.

Can a victim of abuse in a sham marriage use VAWA?

It depends. If a marriage is determined to be a sham, it could potentially negatively impact the ability of an individual to use VAWA to obtain a green card. On the other hand, if an individual can demonstrate that they entered the marriage in good faith and not solely for immigration benefits, and they are now a victim of abuse, they may still be eligible to self-petition under VAWA. The issue will be one of proof.

The green card process through VAWA

If an individual is eligible to self-petition under VAWA, they can apply for a green card without the knowledge or consent of the abusive family member. The process involves filing a Form I-360, attending an interview and awaiting approval.


While the intersection of VAWA and sham marriages can be complex. Though, it is crucial to understand that the primary focus of VAWA is to provide protection for victims of abuse.