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VAWA Green Card Approved!

Apr 8, 2023 | Green card, VAWA

What is VAWA?

Under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) certain foreign nationals who are victims of abuse by their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or child can self-petition for a green card without their abuser ever knowing about it. This is known as a VAWA self-petition. VAWA cases are not easy to win. There are many lawyers out there who claim success simply because they helped their clients obtain work permits based on a pending VAWA case. Sure, that’s great, but ultimately, success is claimed when the client receives a green card based on the VAWA petition. Clients want the security that they can remain in the United States and continue their lives rather than just have a work permit. Green card is more permanent. Work permit is temporary. I have done a fair share of VAWA cases during my 20+ year career as an immigration lawyer, and they are always heartbreaking. The stories I hear…the photos of the abuse I see…the medical reports I read. All heartbreaking. That makes me work even harder for my VAWA client, knowing what they have suffered. But of course, not every client has documents to show abuse.  In fact, most don’t. That is when the detailed lawyering pays off.  Lawyers have to think “outside the box” when it comes to VAWA cases, because it’s often detailed writing that leads to success in the absence of documentary evidence. So…. I cannot wait to call my client to let her know that her new green card has arrived!

How do you succeed on a VAWA case?

This was a tough one. My client was a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of the United States citizen husband. As is true in many such cases, she barely had any evidence to show that she suffered abuse that would arise to the level of battery or extreme cruelty. I spoke with her for hours to try to get a sense of her marriage and we worked closely together to detail what she suffered to submit with her VAWA self petition. We didn’t claim victory when she receive her work permit. That was just part of the process. Success on a VAWA case takes a lot of work and creative solutions to address the lack of documents.

How long does a VAWA case take to finish?

This case took 6 years to finish!  That’s not unsual. As expected, over the course of six years, we received numerous notices for evidence from USCIS asking us to provide more details of how my client was a “battered spouse” and to prove that her marriage to her husband was bona fide. At the end, I had to write a strongly worded letter about unavailability of more evidence and how unreasonable their expectations were for someone in my client’s situation, who was a victim of abuse. The notices for evidence re-traumatized my client and she was ready to give up many times over the last six years. It was job — my duty — to help her hang on.  Giving up was not good enough for me. We finally got the case approved – without an interview!! It is not enough to just claim someone is a victim of domestic abuse. USCIS requires evidence to convince them that the person claiming abuse really was a victim and that they qualify for a green card under VAWA. It takes skill to communicate with both the client and with USCIS in cases like this. These are hard conversations, but the results can be rewarding. I can imagine how this green card is now going to completely change her life!

Ruchi Thaker