Documenting Abuse for a VAWA Self-Petition

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Documenting Abuse for a VAWA Self-Petition

U.S. immigration law allows victims of domestic violence to apply for lawful permanent residence (green card) as a self-petitioner, meaning applying without the help of their abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent. However, this law, known as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), has several requirements that must be satisfied before a petition for the benefit is approved. At Kriezelman Burton & Associates, LLC, we have experienced immigration attorneys who assist clients in the Chicago area to apply for and obtain green cards based on VAWA.

Proving Domestic Abuse Under VAWA

VAWA defines domestic abuse more broadly than is generally the case, for example, under criminal law. This is important for a victim of domestic abuse to understand because abusive conduct that is generally not considered criminal law can be a basis for obtaining a green card as a VAWA self-petitioner. Abuse for VAWA purposes includes not only physical violence but the following conduct as well:

  • Threats
  • Intimidation
  • Social isolation
  • Economic abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Harassment 

There is more so if you are in an abusive relationship or a victim of what you know to be domestic violence, an experienced immigration lawyer can help you in self-petitioning to obtain a green card under VAWA.

Documents Required for VAWA

To be successful, a VAWA petition must be accompanied by credible, detailed evidence documenting the abuse by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder). The following is the type of documentation required for a successful VAWA petition:

  • Evidence to establish the relationship between the victim and the U.S. citizen or green card holder. This can be a marriage certificate for a spousal relationship or a birth certificate for a parental relationship. 
  • A detailed personal statement by the victim laying out how the victim has been abused by the U.S. citizen or green card holder.
  • Hospital or doctor records showing injuries suffered caused by the abuser.
  • Social work or psychiatrist records indicating discussions about the abuse.
  • Affidavits from professionals such as doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, and others who worked with the victim stating their professional observations about the abuse.
  • Affidavits from family members, coworkers, friends, clergy, neighbors, teachers, and others describing conversations with the victim about the abuse or their independent observations of abusive conduct by the U.S. citizen or green card holder.
  • School or work absence records that corroborate other evidence of abuse.
  • Police reports documenting incidents of abuse.
  • Copies of any protective orders obtained against the abuser.
  • Records from domestic violence shelters establishing that the victim sought protection there.
  • Photographs and video clips showing the victim’s injuries.
  • Photographs or video clips of the victim’s personal possessions that were damaged by the abuser. 

This is not an exhaustive list of documents essential in proving domestic violence under VAWA, but a good combination of these documents would normally lead to a successful self-petition. As is the case with all other immigration benefits, the more documentation you have, the better.

Speak with an Illinois Immigration Lawyer Right Away

If you are in an abusive domestic relationship, contact us today to learn how we can help you file a successful VAWA self-petition.