Elements of a VAWA Self-Petition
Many immigrants who have been battered by their abusive U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouses may petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for adjustment of status or a “green card” under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”). Both men and women can be self-petitioners.
An immigrant must meet the following conditions: Part I1. He/she was legally married to the abusive United States citizen or legal permanent resident spouse. Note, being engaged to a United States citizen or currently residing in the United States on a K visa does not apply. 2. He/she has been battered by, or has been the subject of extreme cruelty, perpetrated by the United States citizen or lawful permanent resident during the marriage. This abuse includes, but is not limited to the following acts: being the victim of any act or threatened act of violence, including: forceful detention, sexual abuse or exploitation, rape, and/or molestation. Mental cruelty involves repeated acts of non-physical violence against the victim. Examples can include: financial exploitation, controlling behavior (i.e., not allowing the victim to speak in their native language, exercise his/her religious beliefs, visit family/friends, and/or threatening him/her with deportation), degrading behavior (i.e., verbal abuse or insulting the victim based on their cultural differences), and acts of deception; 3. He/she has resided in the United States with their United States citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse (regardless of the length of time they actually lived together). Note, that even brief residence together (such as one week) may be sufficient to meet this element;
An immigrant must meet the following conditions: Part II4. He/she is currently residing in the United States. Note, the applicant must be currently residing in the United States; 5. He/she entered into the marriage to the United States citizen or lawful permanent resident in good faith. Note, it is the burden of the applicant to prove to the USCIS that the marriage was entered in good faith and was bona fide at its inception; 6. He/she is a person of good moral character. Note, a police clearance certificate must be provided. It is recommended that the applicant provide affidavits from employers, friends, religious organization leaders, etc. attesting to the applicant's good moral character; and 7. He/she is a person whose deportation would result in extreme hardship to himself/herself.
Additional commentsIn addition, if the immigrant is already divorced from his or her abusive spouse, the petition must be filed no later than two (2) years following the date that the divorce decree was finalized. If the divorce was already finalized at the time the VAWA self-petition is filed, the immigrant must further establish that the divorce was a direct result of the abuse suffered. VAWA applicants should also note that if they re-marry while their petition is pending with the USCIS, their petition will be invalidated. It is worth noting that USCIS may consider any credible evidence relevant to the VAWA petition, such as reports and affidavits by the self-petitioner, his/her friends and family, orders of protection, and evidence that the abused victim sought safe-haven; however, the determination as to what documentation is credible and the weight to be given to that evidence is left within the sole discretion of the Service. If you are interested in pursuing a VAWA petition, please contact our firm for additional information.