How to File a VAWA Self-Petition

Realizing that VAWA stands for Violence Against Women Act may have you thinking that services provided only apply to women. However, this is false. Designed to tackle the issue of domestic violence, the VAWA caters to the needs of spouses, children, and parents alike. This means that everybody, irrespective of gender, can file a VAWA self-petition. 

Victims experiencing abuse from family members may file for VAWA and become lawful citizens of the United States. By independently applying for permanent residency, the sufferer seeks protection and legal status in the United States.  

Who is Eligible to File for VAWA Self-petition? 

Not everyone can just up and file a VAWA self-petition. Instead, you have to, first, be eligible. Here’s a list of eligible people who can file a VAWA application. 

  • Spouses of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs): For many people, domestic violence is a deal breaker in a romantic relationship. Individuals who have divorced their abusers within the last 24 months are qualified to sign the VAWA self-petition. Whether you are a man or woman, if your spouse is a U.S. citizen or green card holder, you can fill out a VAWA application.
  • Children of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs): The delicate status of children before they turn adults leaves them in a vulnerable position during abuse.
  • Parents of United States citizens: Parents of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old can fill out a VAWA individual petition. This application classifies them for immigration with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. While children naturally care about the well-being of their parents, factors like mental disorders or substance abuse may often lead to violent outbursts. If or when this happens, finding a means of escape is inevitable. As a victim, you should consider getting legal help to navigate the permanent residency process.

VAWA Requirements 

Here are some requirements you should meet before filing a VAWA self-petition: 

  • You should live in the U.S.: To file a VAWA self-petition, you have to live in the United States at the time. If not, you’ll provide evidence that the abusive citizen is an employee of the U.S. government. Or that the citizen assaulted you or your child in the United States. Living currently with the abuser is not necessary, but you must have lived with them at some point.
  • Your abuser has to be a citizen: You know now that the abuser must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. However, if the assaulter is no longer a U.S. citizen, there is no cause for alarm. Just ensure you file the VAWA self-petition within two years of the citizen’s loss of status.
  • You must be a victim of abuse: You must have suffered abuse to consider filing a VAWA self-petition. As a petitioner, you will also have to provide proof of abuse.  And according to the VAWA regulations, abuse is any form of violence or threatened act of violence.  This includes rape, psychological abuse, and battery.  
  • You must possess ethical integrity: After filing the VAWA petition, your behavior in the last few years faces scrutiny. Police clearances and testimonials from people who know you are often used to judge your character.

Documents to Support Your Self-petition 

To file the VAWA self-petition, you are expected to provide some documents. Some of them are listed below.  

  • Proof that you were married to the abuser: If you intend to file a VAWA self-petition to be free of your violent spouse, you need to provide evidence that your marriage was legal. A wedding certificate or birth certificates of kids you had together helps. Pictures taken with your spouse at different locations and with family members will prove you married them in good faith.
  • Proof that the abuser is a U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident: Since this proof is not easy to obtain, the USCIS accepts documentation requesting the abuser’s status verification. However, if you can present the relative’s passport, green card, or U.S. birth certificate, you can ease the process.
  • Physical evidence of abuse: Give a detailed description of your abuse, citing important information like dates and places where the molestation occurred. After this, attach proof of the abuse. This includes pictures, letters, texts, and emails that corroborate your narration.
  • Provide testimonies from witnesses: Confirmation from people who have heard or even seen the abuse can support your VAWA self-petition. A witness may be your co-worker, family member, or friend. The important thing is that they can confirm the abuse you narrated while filing your VAWA self-petition. 
  • Submit medical reports: Medical reports like doctor’s notes or hospital records that show injuries or domestic violence conditions should be attached to the VAWA self-petition.
  • Provide police and court records: An abused individual can present restraining orders and police reports to support their claims. Since these records increase your chances of approval, include as much evidence as possible.

How to File a VAWA Self-Petition 

There are important steps to note when filing a VAWA self-petition. Some of these steps include the following: 

Step 1: Get the Form 

The most important form for a VAWA self-petition is the Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. Applicants should fill out the form with verifiable information and details. 

Step 2: Compile Required Records

Add evidence showing the legal relationship with the abuser and documentation of your good moral character. To support your petition, attach necessary documents like physical evidence, police reports, and medical records that prove you were in an abusive relationship. Confirmation from witnesses will contribute positively to verifying your allegation of abuse. 

Step 3: Submit the Self-Petition 

Immediately after filling out the I-360 form and attaching the necessary documents, the applicant should submit the VAWA self-petition to the USCIS. This independent petition requires no filing fee. Be sure that your application is thorough. 

Step 4: Wait for the USCIS Assessment and Verdict

You may submit a VAWA self-petition and be asked for additional information or evidence by the USCIS.  Your application will either be approved or denied after review. If your application is approved, you will get a “deferred action” status that permits you to apply for employment authorization. 

Step 5: Request Adjustment of Immigration Status

After the approval of your VAWA self-petition, you’re free to apply for status adjustment. Immigration status adjustment helps you become a green card holder (lawful permanent resident). Added to the required documents and fees, submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. 

Step 6: USCIS Interview and Permanent Residency Authorization

After the application, an interview to examine the victim’s eligibility gets conducted. If the applicant’s VAWA self-petition is endorsed, a Green Card is issued. When this happens, they become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. 

The Coleman Law Group Can Help You 

The process of filing a VAWA self-petition can be complicated, especially while living with an abusive relative.  For easy identification and collection of necessary documents, you’ll want the services of an immigration lawyer. 

At the Coleman Law Group, our team of dedicated VAWA attorneys provides emotional and legal support for self-petitioners. Contact us today for more information. 

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