What Is VAWA and How Do I Get A Green Card If I Have Been Abused By My Spouse?
Many foreign individuals think that immigrating to the United States will change their lives for the better and for many of us it does. However, there are a small percentage of women and men who are battered and abused once they arrive in the U.S. with their spouse.
VAWA stands for “violence against women act” and it is intended to protect a battered spouse, child or parent.
The VAWA provisions in the INA allow certain spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens and certain spouses and children of permanent residents (Green Card holders) to file a petition for themselves, without the abuser’s knowledge.
This allows victims to seek both safety and independence from their abuser, who is not notified about the USCIS filing.
The VAWA provisions, which apply equally to women and men, are permanent and do not require congressional re-authorization.
What Evidence Do I Need To File For VAWA And Get Approved For A Green Card?
If you have separated from your spouse and want to file for Adjustment of Status (AOS) by yourself, you will need to first submit I-360(Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant).
The filing fee of $405.00 is waived for self-petitioning battered or abused spouses, parents or children of U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Once the I-360 is approved, you will then submit your Adjustment of Status form I-485. You do not need to submit any evidence of your relationship and will not need to fill out the Affidavit of Support form (I-864) but instead need to submit form I-864W (waiver).
What You Need To Submit With I-360
- Form I-360
- copy of marriage certificate
- copy of tax transcripts (filed separately or joint)
- copy of insurance policy
- family photos
- statement from family/friends who witness abuse
- copy doctor/therapist visits for abuse
- copy of medical record as evidence
- statement from a social worker.
- Statement from yourself about abuse
What You Need To Submit With I-485
- documents showing your criminal history (if you have one)
- a copy of your birth certificate
- a copy of your passport page showing a non-immigrant visa if you’ve obtained such a visa within the past year
- two identical passport sized color photos of you
- a sealed and completed I-693 medical examination
- a G-325A biographic information
- a copy of your I-360 approval notice
- a check for $1,070 or an I-912 asking for a waiver of the fee
How Long Will It Take To Get My VAWA Approved?
The processing times for VAWA applications (I-360) can vary depending on which USCIS service center you submitted your application to. But the sooner you submit your case, the faster the adjudicator will be able to review it. You should still gather as much strong evidence of abuse as you can though, no point in submitting a VAWA case that is fast but lacking substantial evidence.
After you apply for VAWA you will then be notified if you have established prima facie which means that the initial inspection has been determined that you have proven/presented evidence of a VAWA case. In some cases you may be denied because you were not able to establish prima facie – in those situations it is important to find out exactly why.
It can sometimes take 1-2 years depending on case load of the Immigration Officer. Do not worry if your prima facie has expired you will get an extension notice in the mail automatically while your case is still being processed. Evidence of abuse needs to be strong, you cannot simply use affidavits from friends and family stating that you were abused. This is where a lot of immigrants go wrong, they think that eye witnesses are the best evidence. Instead you should focus on long standing documentation of the abuse.
What Is VAWA Fraud And How Can A U.S. Citizen Protect Themselves From False Charges?
If you are in the unfortunate situation where your spouse has filed for VAWA and accused you of violence and battery, you will need to take this very seriously. Many US citizens have had their entire lives ruined due to an abuse allegation! Don’t be one of them; learn how to protect yourself.
Many people are unaware of VAWA fraud because it seems so absurd that someone would pretend that they are an abused spouse just to get a green card without having to prove a bona fide marriage. It is more common than you think and may be the quickest route to a green card. Even if you sponsored your fiancee on a K-1 visa but never married, they may be able to stay based on the findings in their VAWA case.
This type of situation happens to many men and women who do not know their way around the immigration system. That is why it is so important to know how to immigration system works so that you are not suck holding the bag at the end of the day.
The first thing you need to do is protect yourself from false charges. If you and your spouse are in a verbal fight, the best option is to leave the residence until you both calm down. If your spouse knows how to manipulate the immigration system, then he/she will be trying to document as much of the alleged abuse as possible.
Do not physically touch your spouse during an argument and if things do not get better you should move out and live with family and friends temporarily. Then file for divorce if you suspect immigration fraud and notify the USCIS.
Some immigrants know about VAWA and will use this back door method to get a green card without their spouse going along with it. They will attempt to gather evidence of abuse such as police reports and other documents showing threats and violent language.
The only way a U.S. citizen can avoid the VAWA process is to initiate divorce and notify the USCIS about any immigration fraud that was committed.
You need to do this as soon as possible and preferably before your spouse submits the I-360 form. Once the VAWA petition is filed, you are out of luck to stop this process.
Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.