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What is aggravated child abuse? (VAWA)

What is aggravated child abuse? (VAWA)

By Brian in VAWA | on 2023-11-17 17:09:14

U.S. immigration law allows a foreign child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is abused by that parent to apply for immigration protections under the Violence Against Women’s Act, or VAWA. This is a law that generally protects women from domestic violence, but foreign children who qualify can also benefit from the law. 

At J Sparks Law, our immigration attorneys help clients in the Austin area with securing VAWA benefits for foreign children suffering abuse at the hands of their U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent.


The abuse that qualifies for getting benefits under VAWA can be either physical or mental, or both. The foreign child suffering the abuse would need to present evidence of the abuse as discussed below.

  • Physical Abuse. This is when the foreign child suffers physical injuries in the hands of their U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent who is abusing them. However, the child does not have to have physical injuries to prove physical abuse. For example, if someone sees a parent angrily hitting a child, presenting that evidence and other information can have the child qualify for VAWA. The person witnessing the incident would need to report to the police, and if the child receives medical care, hospital records documenting the abuse would help in making the case as well.
  • Mental Abuse. Mental cruelty occurs when the foreign child suffers from intentional infliction of suffering by the parent. Mental abuse can often be difficult to prove because arguing and even fighting are common in all families. However, to qualify for VAWA, the level of cruelty must be greater than your typical problems in families. Consulting an experienced VAWA lawyer can help you determine whether you have a case or what needs to be done to make the case for a successful VAWA petition.

Who Can File VAWA Petition for a Foreign Child?

The VAWA petition for a foreign child can be filed by the child’s parent or even the child.

  • Filed by a parent: An abused parent of a child whose other parent is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident can include dependent children in their own petition so long as the child is under 21 and unmarried. The abused parent would need to document and provide evidence of the abuse, such as a police report, hospital visits, and photos of injuries suffered from the abuse.
  • Filed by the child: An abused foreign child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent can file the VAWA petition themselves. The child need not be the parent’s biological child but can be adopted or a stepchild. It can be a child through adoption or perhaps a stepchild from a different marriage. However, if adopted, the child must have been adopted before they turned 18 years of age. In either case, the abuse by the parent must have occurred while the stepchild or adopted child was residing with the abusive stepparent. In all cases, the child filing for VAWA must be under the age of 21 at the time the petition is filed.

Speak With Our Austin Immigration Attorney Right Away

If you are in the Austin area and know of or have a foreign child suffering from abuse in the hands of their U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent, contact the office of J. Sparks Law to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you.

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