The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, is a provision of the law which was recently extended under the Obama Administration in 2013. In the context of U.S. immigration law, this allows victims of domestic abuse to remain in the Unites States and seek adjustment of status (a green card). The victims will benefit under VAWA if the abuser is or was a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or parent.
VAWA applicants can self-petition for a green card on Form I-360 for immigrant benefits even if the marriage ended in divorce, as long as VAWA self-petitioner can show a connection between the divorce and the domestic violence, and files the petition within the statutory limit of two years from the termination of the alleged marriage. With Form I-360, the applicant must prove through documentation that the marriage was bona fide, that the person has good moral character, and that the U.S. citizen or LPR either physically or mentally abused the spouse during the marriage, or the child during residence with the parent.
In order to meet the relevant standard of proof to meet the VAWA requirements there are various categories and suggested pieces of evidence that could go into a VAWA self-petition. Below please find further explanations:
The application should include a detailed declaration describing your relationship with the abuser and any relevant details of your eligibility. The declaration should include details about how you met the abuser and how your relationship developed in addition to the types of abuse you suffered and when each instance of abuse occurred. It is best to include as many details as possible.
Police Clearance Records and Other Evidence of Good Moral Character
You must submit police clearance records from any place you have lived for at least six months during the past three years. These can be obtained at the police station in each place you lived. These clearance records show that you are a person of good moral character and prove that you have not been convicted of a serious crime that might bar you from qualifying under VAWA.
Proof of Your Abuser’s Status (U.S. Citizen or Green Card Holder)
If the abuser is a U.S. citizen, you can submit a copy of the birth certificate, U.S. passport, or certificate of naturalization. If possible, you may be able to obtain a copy of the abuser’s birth certificate through the local records office at the place of birth. If the abuser has already filed a visa petition (Form I-130) for you, you can submit a copy as evidence of his or her U.S. immigration status. If the abuser is a green card holder, you can submit a copy of his or her green card, an I-130 approval notice, or any other immigration documents. If you do not have any of these documents, you can file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The agency will then send you a copy of your immigration file, which may contain some information about your spouse. As a last resort, you can submit written declarations from friends and family who know of the individual’s status.
Proof of Your Relationship
You must also submit proof of your relationship was bonafide. If the abuser is your spouse, you must submit documents to show that you entered the relationship in good faith. Such evidence may include birth certificates of children, photographs, bank account statements, insurance, a lease or property ownership, phone records, utility bills, tax returns, pay stubs, etc. Declarations from family members and friends are also beneficial.
Proof That You Suffered Abuse
The strongest evidence of abuse would be police reports or restraining orders against the abuser. If the abuser was arrested or convicted of physically abusing you, court records and certificates of disposition are important. If you obtained medical treatment, submit copies of your medical records. Similarly, if you have seen a counselor or have gone to a domestic violence shelter, you can submit evidence of that as well. Not only physical abuse is required in order to qualify under VAWA. Emotional or psychological abuse may be enough. If you have seen a psychologist or have been prescribed medication by a doctor due to the abuse, submit evidence of this as well.
As always, if you have difficulty obtaining this type of evidence, you can submit declarations from family members and friends who have witnessed the abuse you suffered, or to whom you have spoken about the abuse.