Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Administration (D.P.A)


Public Policy and Administration


Gabriel M. Telleria


The administration of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)-based petition process does not allow discretionary consideration for sponsoring U.S. citizen spouses. This policy is harmful to U.S. citizens. Further, such policy undermines the efforts of USCIS in an equitable delivery of immigration benefits. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of U.S. spouses with the petition process. A qualitative phenomenological case-study design was used to gain direct knowledge from 13 U.S. citizen spouses about their experiences with the petition process. A conceptual framework approach was used to answer if the current process provides an equitable level of discretionary consideration to U.S. citizen spouses using components of the petition process. Data were collected using an online survey and semi-structured interviews with U.S. citizen spouses, and a review of USCIS appeals responses were utilized to gain information about this personal service-level experience. Thematic analysis revealed the harmful effects a lack of discretionary consideration had on these spouses from producing adverse outcomes. The petition process was described by U.S. citizen spouse as ambiguous, politicized, and manipulative, which prevents any discretionary consideration being given to U.S. citizen spouses. A transformation of this process would ensure an appropriate level of discretionary consideration directly benefitting these spouses and would ensure proper administration of this program, benefiting USCIS and creating a positive social change in policy application.