Proving Your VAWA Case

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Proving Your VAWA Case

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was a law that was enacted in 1994 as an effort to curb domestic violence and sexual assault. The victims of domestic violence who meet the eligibility criteria can obtain a green card through “adjustment of status” under VAWA, a process that will lead to their becoming permanent residents. At Kriezelman Burton & Associates, we are VAWA immigration lawyers who assist clients in the Chicago area in obtaining VAWA benefits, including permanent residency.

In its various reauthorizations, the VAWA law has been strengthened and expanded to, among other things, create a path to obtaining a green card for victims of domestic abuse in the hands of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) who is a spouse or parent. However, the victim must also meet other criteria.

VAWA allows applicants who meet its criteria to self-petition by filing Form I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant for immigrant benefits even if the marriage terminated in divorce, if the VAWA self-petitioner can:

  1. show a connection between the termination and domestic violence, and
  2. files the I-360 petition within the time limit of two years from the end of the marriage 

In addition to the I-360 petition, the VAWA petitioner must also submit documents proving that the marriage was bona fide, meaning the marriage was not one entered as a sham marriage, that the petitioner is of good moral character, and that the U.S. citizen or green card holder spouse or parent physically or mentally abused the petitioner during the marriage, or was the parent’s child in residence with the parent. 

Proving Bona Fide Marriage for VAWA

For a VAWA petition based on spousal abuse to be approved, the petitioner must first show to the satisfaction of the USCIS officer reviewing the petition that the marriage was entered into in good faith. This means the petitioner must prove the marriage was not a “sham marriage,” which USCIS defines as a marriage entered for purposes of circumventing U.S. immigration laws. To prove this, your petition must contain enough evidence to establish the bona fides of the marriage, such as leases or rent agreements showing the couple lived together, utility bills, and so on.

Proving that US Citizen or Green Card Holder Spouse Was Abusive

A petitioner for VAWA benefits must show that they, or their child, “has been battered or has been the subject of extreme cruelty” by the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent (see I.N.A. § §204 (a)(1)(A)(iii)(I)(bb) and (iv); (B) (ii)(I)(bb) and (iii)). There are many types of abuse that qualify under this definition, and these include mental and physical abuse, battery, threats, and intimidation.

Showing the Self-Petitioner’s Good Moral Character

To meet the requirement of good moral character, which means the petitioner is not a bad person who should not get any immigration benefits, USCIS first looks at the petitioner’s criminal record, if they have any. If the record is clear, the petitioner must still demonstrate they are persons of good moral character. This can be done by having friends and family provide affidavits and letters of support.

If you are or have been a victim of domestic abuse or sexual violence and are in the Chicago area, contact us today and schedule a confidential consultation. We are based in Chicago but also offer our services in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. We handle all types of immigration cases.