Domestic Abuse ("VAWA") Visa - Several years ago, the U.S. Government acknowledged the tremendous stress and difficulty immigrants face in domestic abuses cases. Congress passed The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which established many immigration benefits for victims of domestic abuse. VAWA allows the spouses of abusive U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents to self-petition for a green card.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides several immigration benefits to abused spouses and children of US citizens and lawful permanent residents. VAWA was passed into law in 1994. VAWA provides lawful permanent resident status to spouses and children that have been battered by or subjected to extreme cruelty from the US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. Contrary to popular belief, abused male spouses are equally entitled to the immigration benefits provided by VAWA.
In order to qualify for a green card through VAWA, the alien spouse must show that 1) s/he was or is the spouse of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident; 2) the marriage was entered into in good faith; 3) s/he resided with the spouse in the United States; 4) s/he has good moral character; and 5) she has been battered by or subjected to extreme cruelty from the spouse during the marriage.
It is important to note that it is not necessary that the spouse actually physically abuse the alien spouse. Extreme cruelty is also a basis for proving domestic abuse. Abandonment, adultery, psychological abuse, drug use, threats of violence or deportation, control over the alien spouse’s life and involuntary servitude are just some examples of what might constitute extreme cruelty.
Because of the inherent difficulty in obtaining and providing proof of good faith marriage, joint residency, and domestic abuse, Congress has mandated a liberal “any credible evidence” standard for evaluating the evidence in support of the VAWA application. Despite the liberal evidentiary standard, VAWA applications should include as much evidence as possible to prove the five elements. Most VAWA applications contain over 75 or 100 pages of supporting evidence. The VAWA application, which is formally called a self-petition, is made on an I-360 form. The self-petition should be accompanied by a detailed and lengthy declaration by the abused victim, which should offer details about how the couple met, married and when the abuse began. Along with the declaration, police reports, witness statements, photos of bruises or cuts, and evidence of good faith marriage should accompany the I-360 self-petition.
Many abused alien spouses are afraid to apply for VAWA for fear that the abusive spouse will find out and get upset; however, you should not worry about that. The VAWA law contains strict confidentiality clauses. The USCIS officer reviewing the VAWA application and evidence cannot and will not contact the abusive spouse, witnesses or any other individual involved with the case. The USCIS officer will not interview your abusive spouse to "hear his side of the story." There is no interview requirement while USCIS adjudicates the VAWA self-petition. Additionally, it is possible to have USCIS send any receipt notices or other notifications to the attorney of record rather than the abused spouse’s address. If you are being abused, you can file for VAWA and your spouse will never know.
Self-petitioning allows the victim spouse to acquire a green card without the help of their abusive spouse. The process is confidential, and several safeguards are in place to prevent your abusive spouse from finding out about your self-petition. Although the law is entitled Violence Against Women Act, it also applies to male victims of domestic abuse, whether the abuse be physical or mental. All types of domestic abuse qualify including non-violent or psychological abuse.
The VAWA self-petition process is complex and time consuming. In order to persuade USCIS that your case warrants an approval, you need an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney. Managing attorney of The Nuñez Firm, Jay Nuñez, has helped countless victims of domestic abuse obtain green cards (see Testimonials page). He has seen all types of domestic abuse cases and understands the issues you are facing. The consultation is 100% confidential.