Proving Abuse to Get a Green Card Under VAWA

You can get a green card without your abusive spouse or parent, but you'll need to provide some evidence of qualifying mistreatment.

If you are applying for a U.S. green card through VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act) -- that is, applying for lawful permanent residence without your unhelpful, abusive U.S. spouse or parent -- then you will indeed have to provide documentation of that abuse.

If you have not already been placed in removal proceedings, then the filing process begins with filing an application by mail (Form I-360 if you are just starting the process, or Form I-751 if you are a conditional resident seeking permanent residence). After that, you may be required attend an interview at an office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If your application is denied, you might be placed into immigration court proceedings, at which time you could renew your application for a U.S. green card.

For more information on the eligibility rules, see Domestic Violence Against Immigrants: VAWA Protection.

Proving Abuse for VAWA Purposes

First, it's important to understand the types of abuse that can qualify someone to self-petition for a green card under VAWA. The definition is broader than you might think. It includes not only physical violence, but threats, intimidation, economic abuse, social isolation, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, harassment, and more.

With that in mind, the self-petitioner in a VAWA case will need to gather credible, detailed evidence that he or she (or his or her child) has experience such abuse by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or parent. Here are some possibilities for putting together this showing of abuse:

  • a personal statement by the victim
  • doctor or hospital records indicating injuries caused by the abuser
  • psychiatrist or social worker records showing discussions about the abuse
  • affidavits from doctors, psychiatrists, or others who worked with the victim, indicating their professional observations about apparent abuse
  • affidavits from friends, coworkers, neighbors, clergy, teachers, and others relating conversations with the victim regarding the abuse, or their personal observations of abusive behavior by the U.S. citizen or LPR
  • records of school or work absences corresponding to other evidence of abuse
  • police reports showing incidences of abuse
  • statements or records from domestic violence shelters showing that the victim sought protection there
  • photographs showing the victim's injuries
  • copies of protection or restraining orders against the abuser
  • photographs of personal possessions of the victim that the abuser damaged -- or the objects themselves, if making a court appearance or attending a personal interview.

This list is not exhaustive. You may be able to think of additional ways of proving abuse. Also, see The Self-Petition Under VAWA for information to help people draft affidavits on your behalf.

Realize, however, that proving a VAWA case also involves gathering documents proving other matters, such as the citizenship or LPR status of the petitioner, the existence of a good faith marriage, and more.

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