The good moral character requirement can be an especially tricky issue in some cases. I have seen cases involving domestic abuse in which the VAWA self-petitioner was arrested and even charged with domestic violence. Oftentimes when the police arrive at a home involving a domestic dispute, they will arrest both parties if it is unclear who was at fault. Many domestic violence victims also have domestic violence charges on their criminal background check. In other cases, the abusive spouse coerces or threatens the victim into breaking the law - stealing or prostitution are not uncommon.
This can be problematic when trying to prove good moral character. If the VAWA self-petitioner lacks good moral character, the VAWA petition will be denied.
However, a conviction that would otherwise bar a showing of good moral character may be excused if the self-petitioner can show that s/he is eligible for a waiver and the criminal act was connected to the battering or extreme cruelty. The USCIS officer adjudicating the VAWA self-petition need not decide that the waiver would be granted; the officer merely needs to conclude that a criminal conviction waiver will be eligible for filing at the time of adjustment of status.
To establish that the criminal act was connected to the abuse, the VAWA self-petitioner must establish that the abuse "compelled or coerced" the alien to commit the crime such that "the self-petitioner would not have committed the crime if s/he had not been subjected to the abuse. VAWA self-petitioners should include a detailed explanation of what happened with the crime and the abuser's role in the situation. The causal relationship between the abuse and the crime should be explained thoroughly. Any corroborating evidence such as witness affidavits are helpful. Sometimes police reports might mention the abuser as well.
Because this is a common scenario and the Vermont Service Center has handled countless cases involving VAWA self-petitioners with criminal records, they are understanding of how domestic abuse relationships work and the massive power discrepancy involved; however, the filing must be well-organized and thorough in order to overcome any possible good moral character issues.
If you are considering a VAWA case, contact Nelson & Nuñez to schedule a consultation. Jay Nuñez has personally handled many VAWA cases and can help you better understand the process and viability of your case.