Eligibility and Requirements for VAWA Green Card
What is VAWA under immigration laws?
Spouses, parents, and children who are victims of abuse from a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can qualify for a green card under the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). They can petition for themselves without the abuser knowing about it, as the U.S. citizen abuser is not notified about the filing. Both women AND men can equally benefit from VAWA. There are specific requirements to be eligible for VAWA and not every situation will qualify to be deemed eligible for a VAWA petition. This is why it is important to consult with an immigration attorney to discuss whether or not you qualify for a self-petition under VAWA.
What are the requirements to self-petition for a green card under VAWA?
Eligibility for VAWA based on spousal relationship requires the petitioning spouse to show the following:
1. Bona fide spousal relationship
2. Petitioning spouse has suffered battery or extreme cruelty from the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse
3. The marriage was entered into in good faith (and not only for immigration purpose)
4. Petitioning spouse resided in a marital union with his or her spouse
5. Petitioning spouse is a person of good moral character
NOTE: If you re-marry BEFORE the approval of the VAWA petition, the petition will be denied. However, if you re-marry after the VAWA petition has been approved, the new marriage will not invalidate the petition’s approval.
Eligibility for VAWA for a child requires the petitioning child to show the following:
1. Bona fide parent/child relationship between the victim (the child) and the abuser (the parent)
2. Petitioning child has suffered battery or extreme cruelty from his or her U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent
3. Petitioning child resided with the abusive parent
4. Petitioning child is a person of good moral character (if over the age of 14)
Eligibility for VAWA for a parent requires the petitioning parent to show the following:
1. Bona fide parent and son/daughter relationship between the victim (the parent) and the abuser (the son or daughter who is over the age of 21)
2. Petitioning parent has suffered battery or extreme cruelty from his or her U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident son or daughter
3. Petitioning parent resided with the abusive son or daughter
4. Petitioning parent is a person of good moral character
What kind of documents help to make a strong VAWA case?
While VAWA cases are very case-specific and documents depend on each victim’s situation, there are some typical documents that can be submitted in support of a VAWA petition. Some typical documents include, but are not limited to:
- detailed notarized affidavit from the petitioning individual
- birth certificates of victims and abuser
- marriage certificate (for spousal-based cases)
- police reports for any domestic violence incidents
- hospital records and/or letter from a doctor if received any medical treatments for injuries from the abuse
- photos of any physical injuries suffered at the hands of the abuser evidence of good faith marriage and marital union/residence (for spousal-based cases)
- Joint bank account statements and/or other joint financial records
- Joint lease(s)
- Joint phone bills, credit card bills or other utility bills
- Joint tax return filings
- Photos of the petitioning spouse and/with the abuse spouse
- Communications between the spouses (texts, emails, etc)
This is not a full list of documents. Many people do not even such documents, which is why it is critical to discuss with an experienced immigration lawyer to see how you can still make your case for VAWA if you lack documentary evidence.
I have worked with many clients on their VAWA cases, both men and women. The sweetest victories were the ones where the clients wanted to give up half way through the case because USCIS kept asking for more and more evidence and the clients were getting frustrated with the process. I urged them to hold on a little longer and we prepared responses to each request for evidence. When the approvals came in, I will never forget the look of gratitude on my clients’ faces. And the tears of joy! Their lives changed forever with the approval. They were able to secure lawful status, good employment, were able to finally travel internationally, and in many cases, were able to bring their young children from abroad. Years later, I still get communications from my VAWA clients, many of whom are now U.S. citizens – above how just hanging on a little longer at my urging changed their lives for the better!
If you are in a situation where you are concerned about your safety in a domestic situation, you should first find safety for yourself and/or your children and once you feel safe, discuss your situation with an immigration attorney to see if you qualify for VAWA! If you succeed, it can truly change your life for the better!
If you would like to consult with me to discuss your case, please contact me for a confidential consultation!