Woman in fear of domestic abuse

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

The Violence Against Women Act addresses a flaw in the marriage-based immigration system created by domestic violence and abusive relationships. Sadly, immigrants who are victims of abuse often feel compelled to stay with their abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouses in order to get a green card. The victim needs the abuser’s help to get a green card. This dynamic gives the abusive spouse power to manipulate his or her victim.

The goal of the Violence Against Women Act or VAWA is to fix this problem by allowing immigrants who are being abused to self-petition, independently of their abusive spouse or family member.

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What are the requirements for the Violence Against Women Act?

The requirements for an immigration case under the Violence Against Women Act vary based on the facts of the case. In certain circumstances, VAWA can apply to parents or children who have been abused or battered by a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. VAWA can also be used by abused spouses and children of Cuban Adjustment, HRIFA, and NACARA beneficiaries.

In marriage-based Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) cases, a self-petitioning spouse must show:

  • that abusing spouse is (or was) a green card holder or U.S. citizen;
  • that the abuser is a permanent resident or US citizen spouse and was legally married to the VAWA applicant;
  • that the VAWA applicant lived with the abusing spouse;
  • that U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse abused (i.e., “battered or subjected to extreme cruelty”) the VAWA applicant during the marriage;
  • that the marriage was based on a relationship that was entered into for bona fide, good faith reasons and not solely for obtaining immigration benefits; and
  • that the Violence Against Women Act applicant is a person of good moral character.

What types of documentation are used to prove abuse or battery?

To win your VAWA case, you need to show that you were battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by your spouse. USCIS takes into consideration a variety of domestic violence, which is not limited to physical abuse.

Often people mistakenly believe that a successful Violence Against Women Act application must be supported with a police report. But this is not true. U.S. immigration laws provide a flexible legal standard, which allows VAWA self-petitioners to submit “any credible evidence.”

Although not required, it’s helpful to submit any available primary or secondary documentation such as, medical records, police reports, restraining order paperwork, and therapist/counselor reports, domestic violence shelter records.

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A good affidavit is essential to a winning VAWA case

A petition under VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act) should be supported with an affidavit or personal statement from the applicant, describing the abuse, the courtship and relationship with the abusive spouse, and the applicant’s good moral character and immigration history. This is a crucial part of the case that should be prepared with meticulous care.

What is VAWA Cancellation of Removal?

This form of relief is available only to those who are in removal proceedings in Immigration Court and who can demonstrate that deportation would cause extreme hardship to the applicant or her children. So-called VAWA Cancellation of Removal usually comes into play only where the applicant is ineligible for relief through adjustment of status with an ordinary VAWA visa petition (Form I-360).

How can Dalbir Singh & Associates P.C. help you?

If you’re a non-citizen trapped in an abusive relationship with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident: we’ve got your back. At Dalbir Singh & Associates,  our immigration lawyers have considerable experience preparing well-documented VAWA self-petitions. We’ve successfully guided countless victims of domestic violence through this immigration process. We have insights into the VAWA process and can:

  • Evaluate the merits of your VAWA case and help you gauge whether filing a self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act is an appropriate form of relief; and
  • Help you find and resolve hidden problems and red flags that might only be apparent to an immigration lawyer with experience in VAWA cases.

Schedule a consultation to learn more about the Violence Against Women Act and how our immigration lawyers can help you.

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