PHA Verification Procedures When Noncitizen Claims VAWA Protections

HUD recently issued a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) notice relating to noncitizen self-petitioner procedures under VAWA. This notice applies to public housing, Housing Choice Voucher assistance (including project-based vouchers), and Section 8 Mod Rehab.

The notice outlines the procedures that public housing agencies (PHAs) must follow when an applicant or resident requests admission or continued residency as a result of being a VAWA self-petitioner. VAWA self-petitioners are those who claim to be victims of “battery or extreme cruelty.” And VAWA covers the following types of battery or extreme cruelty: domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 states that HUD may not allow financial assistance to ineligible noncitizens, but assistance must not be denied while verifying immigration status. HUD has determined that self-petitioners can indicate that they are in “satisfactory immigration status” when applying for assistance or continued assistance from Section 214-covered housing providers. “Satisfactory immigration status” means an immigration status that doesn’t make the individual ineligible for financial assistance. After verifying such immigration status in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) System, PHAs will make a final determination as to the self-petitioner’s eligibility for assistance.

According to HUD, not every noncitizen victim who has been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty will qualify under these procedures. In order to qualify, the noncitizen victim must have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by her spouse or parent, who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR). PHAs may receive a petition at any time, but submissions will most likely be related to a request for VAWA protections pursuant to 24 CFR Part 5 Subpart L (that is, with a request for an emergency transfer or family breakup resulting from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking; see PIH 2016-09.) Once a PHA receives a self-petition (INS Form I-360 or I-130) or INS Form 797, it’s prohibited from requesting any additional information from the VAWA self-petitioner, other than what’s required below to complete the verification.

Verification Procedure

When a PHA receives a self-petition or INS Form 797 Notice of Action, the PHA must initiate verification in the SAVE System:

Step 1. Enter self-petitioner’s name, alien ID number, and date of birth in the SAVE System. The system will provide one of the following responses:

  • If the SAVE System responds with a match, no further action is necessary at this time. Skip to step 3.
  • If the SAVE System responds “no match,” the PHA must complete the following additional steps. Continue to step 2.

Step 2. Push the button for “Institute Additional Verification.” In the next screen, in the memo field, type “verify VAWA self-petition.” If the documentation provided by the applicant is a form I-130, type in the memo field “verify I-130.” Upload one of the following documents from the applicant:

  • I-360 VAWA Self-Petition
  • I-130 Family-Based Visa Petition
  • I-797 Notice of Action
  • Steps undertaken by DHS: Receipt of I-130 or I-360, prima facie determination, or approval of self-petition.

Step 3. Wait for a final determination from the SAVE System. You’ll receive one of two confirmations:

  • The VAWA self-petition is verified, in which case the applicant is immediately eligible for housing and no evidence of battery or extreme cruelty shall be requested or collected;
  • The I-130 is verified, in which case the petitioner submitting a family-based visa petition must provide to the PHA any evidence of “battery or extreme cruelty.” 

Housing assistance and all other VAWA protections will be granted to the self-petitioner throughout the verification process until a final determination of LPR status is made. If the final determination is to deny the VAWA self-petition or LPR petition, the PHA must alert the petitioner and take actions to terminate voucher assistance or evict the petitioner from public housing in accordance with the existing public housing requirements.