US Congress passed a special law called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA for short) with provisions for immigration applicants to protect them from abuse and allow them the opportunity to receive their immigration status without their abusive US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse.
How to Apply for a Green Card after Domestic Violence Without Your Abusive US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Spouse
- Male victims of domestic violence also can apply for VAWA protections
- Same sex couples where the US citizen or LPR spouse is abusing the immigrant give VAWA protections equal to traditional marriage cases.
- Children of VAWA applicants under 21 can be included and receive their own VAWA derivative status when VAWA petition is approved.
To file for VAWA protections, the following is required:
- You were married to a US Citizen or Green Card Holder in a bona fide marriage, for love and to create a family together. Also, if you THINK you were married, but you were not married (in cases where the US citizen spouse was practicing polygamy), you may be eligible. Also, if a parent of an abusive US citizen or LPR is filing, the child/parent relationship must be proven.
- You were abused by your USC Citizen or Green Card holder spouse.
- You are a person of good moral character
- You have documents proving your spouse is a US citizen or green cardholder.
- You have joint documents with your spouse proving you were married (joint tax returns, joint leases, joint utility bills, joint bank and credit card statements, photographs, etc.) and you can prove you have good moral character.
Even if you were already ordered removed/deported by an immigration judge or if you entered US without a valid visa, VAWA will help you get a green card.
The STEPS to VAWA green card process
Step 1 – VAWA and green card forms
- Forms and Documents to prepare:
- I-360 VAWA Petition
- Personal Statement from abused immigrant detailing how she met her spouse, how they date, how got married, what happened during the marriage, details of abuse, show the abuse was extreme and cruel.
- Documents proving US citizen status of abuser, proof of marriage, proof of abuse, witness letters, photos of the couple, biographical documents for the immigrant herself (passport, prior immigration correspondence, any prior work authorizations, any court documents), arrest records.
- Medical documentation and evaluations by a social worker or a psychologist or a psychiatrist showing the immigrant shows evidence of having been abused.
- Evidence of good moral character.
- I-485 Application for Green Card
- I-765 Application for Work Authorization.
Step 2 – Sent package to USCIS vermont Service Center Humanitarian Unit.
Step 3 – Receipt Notice by USCIS that the I-360, I-485, and I-765 forms were received by USCIS with new case numbers.
Step 4 – Attend Biometrics appointment at USCIS Application Support Center near your safe address.
Step 5 — Receive Prima Facie Approval letter.
Step 6 – Respond to any Request for Evidence letters from USCIS.
Step 7 – Receive Approval Notice for the I-360 VAWA Petition.
Step 8 — Attend interview for I-485 Adjustment of Status Green Card Application in a USCIS Field Office near where you live.
What do I do if my wife was only a green card holder and abused me?
For spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents, we first send out I-360 VAWA Petition, and then once it is approved, we wait for the priority date (filing date for the I-360 Petition) to become current in the category of I-130 filing dates for Spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents. When the date is current, only then we file I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Green Card.
Shepelsky law procedures for filing for VAWA I-360 petitions
I-360 VAWA self-petiton based on abuse/domestic violence by usc spouse or lpr spouse
- Need to prove was MARRIED to Spouse
- Need to prove Spouse was US Citizen or Green Card Holder.
- Need to prove that Marriage was Real (and not for immigration purposes)
- Need to prove that the abuse was EXTREME and CRUEL
Documents from VAWA client:
1. Prove status of Abusive Spouse (proof he was US Citizen or LPR).
- Marriage Certificate
- Naturalization Certificate, or
- US Passport, or US birth certificate or record of US citizen born abroad
2. Prove marriage was real, in good faith.
- Joint tax returns – filed married.
- Joint bills
- Joint leases
- Joint Bank statements
- Joint Insurance cards
- Joint photos. Photos must be signed. Date, place, who is in photo, meaning of the photo.
- Joint trips – tickets, itineraries
- Witness statements
3. Prove Abuse. Medical records, psychiatrist records, homeless shelter, police reports, Orders of Protection by Family Court.
Need witness statements to show dated, married, abused.
If has pending I-130/I-485, write a letter to USCIS where the file is (could be service center or could be Field Office) asking to Freeze the I-485 until the I-360 is decided/adjudicated and then switch filing basis of I-485 from I130 to approved I-360.
4. Moral character of self-petitioner
- Good Conduct Certificate from NYC Police Department or other places where they lived longer than 6 months
- Proof of church attendance
- Proof of volunteering in some Charity organizations or being member of some good community organizations.
5. Questions for personal statement/declaration for the I-360
- When di d you meet your u.s. spouse?
- Circumstances of meeting, addresses at the time you met?
- Details of dating?
- Who proposed to whom, when, where, details?
- Details of wedding, who was there, date, where was the wedding?
- When moved in together?
- Details of married life?
- Where did you live together?
- When did abuse start?
- What were at least 3 abuse incidents, with dates and places of where it took place
6. Landlord’s letter proving when and where lived together with spouse.
7. Joint documents – joint bills, joint lease, joint bank account, joint tax returns
8. Mail showing both spouses have same address
9. Witnesses that couple was married – in writing, need witness’s names, address and immigration status and what they know
10. Witnesses of the abuse – what they saw, what they heard, that the abuse was extreme and cruel.
11. When and how abuse began. Details of abusive behavior.
- Medical Records – treatment for mental injury, physical injuries?
- Family Court – Order of Protection?
- Criminal Court – Order of Protection?
- Police reports
- Domestic Violence District Attorney’s records
- Emergency room records?
- Counseling, psychotherapy – will need letter from counselor or from psychiatrist with assessment
- Arrest records for Abuser?
13. Correspondence with family, with abuser, with any other people
After I-360 is approved:
- File for I-765 Work Authorization with basis (c)(31) – based on approved VAWA.
- If priority date is current for filing for a visa in the category (spouse of USC is immediately, spouse of LPR waits for the priority date to be current), file for Adjustment of Status.
- No need for Affidavit of Support – must I-864W.