Proving Abuse to Get a Green Card Under VAWA

Types of documents that can help VAWA self-petitioners prove that they really were the victims of domestic violence.

If you are applying for a U.S. green card through VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act); which means applying for lawful permanent residence without your unhelpful, abusive U.S. spouse or parent; then you will 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 might be required attend an interview at an office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If your application is denied, you could 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 Process to Get a Green Card Under VAWA.

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 showing that he or she (or his or her child) has experienced such abuse by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or parent.

Here are some possibilities for this type of evidence:

  • 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 might be able to think of additional ways of proving abuse. 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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