Domestic violence and abuse as well as crimes of violence are serious issues which might lead to immigration benefits for the victims.
Who is Covered?
Female as well as Male victims of domestic violence, Also battered and abused parents or adoptive parents of US Citizens, and adopted children of US Citizens are covered under this law. The Act further contains provisions, allowing battered illegal aliens to claim temporary visas, be granted Deferred Action, and be eligible for Adjustment of Status.
Purpose and Approach.
All VAWA Petitions have to be well-documented, and the following categories need to be covered:1. Relationship to the Abuser2. Status of the Abuser3. Residence with the Abuser4. Good Faith Marriage or adoptive relationship5. Abuse6. Good moral character of the petitioner
Documenting the case
Gathering evidence can be quite difficult for the abused petitioners. In many cases, the petitioners aren't living at home, and/or their abusers keep the documents from them. The USCIS is well aware of how hard document gathering can be, and, therefore, a very realistic standard for evidence has been established. This standard is called as "any credible evidence" standard, which means that not only official documents will be accepted by the USCIS, but any and all other believable documents, such as signed letters and sworn declarations would also be satisfactory.
Relationship to the Abuser
Petitioners must show evidence of relationship to the abuser. That means, that not only the Petitioner's own (or the Petitioner parent's) marriage is or was legal, but all prior marriages of both parties were terminated by death or divorce. Therefore, any and all marriage, death and divorce certificates have to be presented. The marriage may be entered into either inside, or outside of the United States of America, however, any and all documents, issued in a foreign language have to be translated into English. A step-relationship may be terminated by death, legal separation, or divorce.
In order to remain eligible to file for VAWA relief after the termination of a step-relationship, the alien stepparent of an abusive US Citizen son or daughter must demonstrate that: (1) the US Citizen stepchild had not reached the age of 18 years at the time the marriage, creating the status of stepchild occurred; (2) the step-relationship was in legal existence, and not terminated by death, legal separation or divorce at the time of the abuse, and (3) the step-relationship was in legal existence at the time of filing or if the relationship was terminated due to death, legal separation, or divorce, the alien stepparent remains eligible if the stepparent can demonstrate as a matter of fact, the relationship continued to exist between the stepparent and the US Citizen Stepchild at the time of filing.
Abuser's Immigration Status
WAVA petitioners are also required to prove that their abusers are Legal Permanent Residents of the USA (green-card holders) or US Citizens. Official documentation, containing the US-born Abuser's date and place of birth, or, in the absence of a US passport or a Naturalization Certificate, a document, containing Alien Registration Number for an abuser of foreign birth is required. In many cases, an experienced attorney would be able to help an abused Petitioner to find proof of the Abuser's status, even in cases, where the Abuser attempts to keep such documents from the Petitioner.
Residence with the Abuser
Another requirement is to show residence with the abuser. It often happens, that when the victim of abuse has no immigration status, and no social security number, documentary evidence showing joint residence is scarce. Also, the law does not specify how long the petitioner and the abuser had to live together, and how much time might have passed since they lived together. In cases of severe abuse, the length of joint residence may be quite brief. In such cases, documenting joint residence always takes a concerted effort of the Petitioner and his or her advocate, as well as a creative approach by the advocate
Good Faith Marriage
Demonstrating good faith marriage is only easy, if the marriage was long and there were children born in the marriage. In all other cases, especially when the abuser is making document production hard for the victim, the scarcity of the evidence may make the USCIS suspicious of the petitioner's intentions to cheat the US Immigration law. In this, the value of assistance of an experienced attorney cannot be underestimated; as such attorney will guide the Petitioner through the process of producing statements, declarations and other evidence, documenting the good faith of the petitioner.
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