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Violation Against Women Act

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Violation Against Women Act

VAWA protects a battered spouse, battered kids or stepchildren, a person who witnessed spousal abuse and parents abused by their adult child. And in order to file a complaint under VAWA, the abuser should be a US citizen and a lawful permanent resident.

In case of such an abusive situation, you can file a permanent residency petition in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) independent of your batterer. As per VAWA, the USCIS does not have permission to notify your abuser about the petition. And once the USCIS approves your petition, you will get approval for permanent residency.

However, don’t worry if your abuser is not a permanent US resident. You can find relief through the U Visa option.

Scroll down to find out what abuses fall under the VAWA.

VAWA Protection

VAWA protects immigrants against almost all abuses from a US citizen spouse. Other than physical abuses, USCIS also considers extreme cruelty and non-violent abuses to exert power over the battered. Here is a list of abuses that falls under the Violation Against Women Act:

  • Threatening not to file Form 1-175 jointly.
  • Threatening to report the spouse to USCIS.
  • Threatening to divorce the immigrant. (it applies mainly when the victim is from a culture or religion that consider divorce as a Taboo)
  • Threatening to abuse the foreign spouse or their close ones physically.
  • Invading the privacy of the victim.
  • Intentionally withholding access to food or money.
  • Restricting the victim from contacting their friends or relatives.
  • Denying victim the permission for transportation and access to essential documents.
  • Intentionally destroying personal property.
  • Frequent, uncontrollable display of aggressiveness, name-calling and insults.

If you are subjected to any of the above threats and violence, get in touch with a VAWA immigration attorney immediately. They will assist you in gathering the evidence and filing the complaint. The following are the categories of evidence to file a VAWA application:

  • Your personal declaration.
  • Medical records of injuries due to abuse, if any.
  • Psychological documents, including the discussions of abuse.
  • Affidavits of victim’s doctors.
  • Depositions of victim’s friends, co-workers and others.
  • Police reports
  • Records from domestic violence shelters.
  • Pictures or videos of wounds and destroyed personal properties of the victim.
  • Protection orders

VAWA Cancellation of removal

You won’t be eligible to file a petition to USCIS if you already got the notification to appear for the removal hearing. The same is the situation if your abusive spouse does not have US citizenship and if you do not know your Immigration Visa preference category at the moment. Nevertheless, you should request a VAWA cancellation of removal during your removal hearing, stating that you were subjected to abuse and hence may get permanent residency.

And in order to apply for VAWA cancellation of removal, you must prove your physical presence for a long time, proof of abuse and your good moral character:

  • Presence in the US:

Continuous physical presence in any state of the US is a mandatory requirement to apply for VAWA cancellation of removal. The first day you reach the US to reside here continuously will be considered as your day one. And every day from that will be counted to prove your presence in the US. However, if you have left the US for more than 90 days at a stretch, you won’t be eligible for VAWA Cancellation of Removal. The same thing is applicable if you have taken short visits to some other country for a total of 180 or more days a year.

  • Good moral characters

The procedures of establishing a good moral character for VAWA cancellation for removal are similar to that of other immigration procedures. There are several criminal offences and actions that bar you from getting approved of the VAWA. If you have committed any of the crimes, you won’t be eligible to apply for it.

If you do not have any criminal records, then the procedures are simple; you will have to get some affirmatives from people you know, your tax payment records and any other documents that can prove your good moral character.

  • Extreme hardship

You should be a victim of abuse to apply for VAWA Cancellation of Removal. Here, you can establish that you are a victim of extreme abuse and are taking physical or mental treatment for that from the US. And it will be difficult for you to continue your treatment there in your native country.

You can also state that you are susceptible to domestic violence in your native country if you are deported. This statement has more validity if you are from Central American countries where rules against domestic violence are not this strict.

Nevertheless, it is easier to prove extreme hardship in VAWA cancellation of removal than in non-LPR cancellation cases. Get in touch with our VAWA attorney to know more about VAWA cancellation of Removal procedures.

Evidence and Documentation to prove Abuse

You need evidence and documents to prove that you were abused and eligible for VAWA cancellation of removal. It is different in different cases according to the victims’ hardships and the abuses they suffered. In some situations, you can provide hospital records and statements from doctors as evidence for your abuse. If you have photographs or videography to prove that you are abused, that will also fall under evidence.

However, in some cases, the situation gets more complex; the victim might be isolated from others so they won’t be able to discuss it with anyone. There won’t be any witnesses or doctors who can state that the victim is abused. In such cases proving the case will be difficult, and you will need the help of an attorney to do that. And there will be cases where there are no physical abuses; so the attorney will have to find another way to prove it.

1-175 Battered Spouse or Child Waiver

Another way to apply for permanent residency through VAWA is the battered spouse or child waiver. Any victim of domestic violence can request a waiver, and if approved, they can apply for permanent residency without the help of an abusive spouse. Through this method, you can even get permanent residency before the expiry of your 2-year conditional status.

A temporary green card is required to avail of permanent residency through filing Form 1-175. However, if you do not have one, you can self-petition for a green card through Form 1- 360.

Misconceptions about VAWA

Many immigrants are still not aware of the benefits and protections that fall under VAWA. These are some of the common misconceptions about VAWA:

  • Only women can get the benefits of VAWA. 
  • VAWA only covers physical abuses.
  • You should file a police report to apply for VAWA.
  • The abused immigrant should be divorced or separated from the abuser to apply for a VAWA waiver.

How to Apply for VAWA?

In order to apply for VAWA, the applicant must prove that they are/were spouse or child of an abusive US resident or legal permanent resident. And they should also be able to submit evidence for the battery and /or abuse. The evidence as above mentioned can be your personal declaration, affidavits of people who witnessed the incident, affidavit of your doctors, documentation of non-qualifying incidents that were abusive in nature.

One of the requirements of the applicant to avail of VAWA is to prove a morally good character. And for the same reason, applicants with criminal records are sometimes denied approval for VAWA. The only case where an applicant with a criminal record gets approval for VAWA is when they prove that the offence has connections with the abuse. In that case, the applicant has to consult with a San Jose VAWA petition lawyer to understand if they can waive the convictions.

The confidentiality of the VAWA application is one benefit that all the applicants enjoy. Your abuser or anyone else will never know about the pending VAWA procedures as USCIS is prohibited from revealing it to anyone. In many ways, it is a liberation to many victims who are still living with the abuser or is afraid of their further abuse. So until and unless the victim reveals about the VAWA petition themself to the abuser, they won’t get any notice or records of it. And once the VAWA is approved, the victim can apply immediately for employment authorization. 

If you are an immigrant, a victim of crime, the VAWA application is not the only option for you. Check with our VAWA immigration attorney to learn about various visa options available for an immigrant victim of crimes.

VAWA Application Procedures

he applicant has to file the application to the USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) in form 1-360. All the procedures are through mail correspondence, and confidentiality is assured throughout the whole process. 

One thing that most applicants are concerned about is the nature and confidentiality of the procedures. They are afraid of the consequences they and their children might face throughout and after the procedures. However, there is nothing to be worried about. You can request USCIS to mail all our documents to your VAWA petition attorney’s address or any other safe address so that your abuser never gets that. And if the applicant is not going through deportation procedures, they won’t even have to go to court for the procedures. There won’t be any in-person interviews, too; that way, you are entirely safe from all the hassles once you submit all the documents.

Along with 1-360, victims who are married to US citizens can also apply for a green card with it through form 1-485.

Step-by-step VAWA Application procedures

Here is how you can apply for VAWA:

  • Meet your VAWA petition lawyer– The initial step of the VAWA procedure is to meet a VAWA petition attorney, discuss the case with them and prepare a declaration containing a detailed explanation of the abuse.
  • Gathering evidence- The next step is to gather evidence for your statements. It can be a stressful procedure as you have to go and meet a lot of people to gather affidavits and declarations. The type of evidence change according to the case, and your attorney will guide you properly in gathering the right evidence.
  • Fill the USCIS forms- Your attorney will go through the evidence and help you fill the USCIS forms up.
  • Submit for background check: Before taking your application, the USCIS will have to conduct a background check for criminal records in all the addresses you have lived in the US.
  • Submit VAWA application- After you fill all the USCIS forms, you have to submit them to USCIS Vermont Service Center. This department exclusively deals with VAWA and U Visa applications.
  • Fingerprints- One week after the submission of the application, you will get a notification to take your fingerprint.
  • Submit evidence and wait for decision- Once they take your fingerprints, the department will either give you the decision after considering the evidence and declaration you submitted. Or inform you that they need further evidence to adjudicate the case.

Once your application is granted, you are an official permanent resident of the US and is legally eligible for work authorization.

Duration of VAWA procedures

The time to complete VAWA procedures depends on the number of cases present in the court when you submit the cases. Usually, it takes one to two years to finish the proceedings and declare the decision.

Things you need to demonstrate in your VAWA application

  • Eligibility: 

To be eligible for the VAWA application, you have to fulfil certain requirements. It includes the documentation of the abuse and proof of your moral good character.

To know more about the application procedures for the visa, eligibility, contact our VAWA petition attorney now.

  • Supporting evidence:

Documentation and supporting evidence change according to the background of each case. If the victim was hospitalized, then hospital records and a doctor’s affidavit will be the evidence for the abuse. If you or your neighbours have called the police during the abuse, then police records will be taken as evidence. And if the victim hasn’t talked to anyone about the violence, their self-declaration will be enough. So, according to the situation, your attorney will instruct you to gather information.

Mental health professionals-

There are many cases where victims won’t reveal anything about the abuse to anyone other than the VAWA petition attorney. In such cases, our attorneys ask them to consult a professional psychologist. That helps them to overcome the trauma and also will be a strong proof for the VAWA petition.

  • Proving Moral Character:

Immigration and Nationality Act has statutorily defined the acts of an immigrant that can establish their good character. There are certain sets of actions and criminal offences that will bar you from establishing moral character. Even if you prove good moral character according to the Immigration and Nationality Act, a discretion basis moral character assessment is also required. If you have committed many minor crimes that do not fall under offensive acts, the USCIS can reject your application. However, this changes according to your case.

  • Demonstrating Abuse:

The victim should be able o demonstrate physical, mental, sexual and/or psychological abuse to file the petition. Also, remember, it is not just physical abuse; VAWA will consider all types of abuses.

Proving mental and psychological abuse-

There is no tangible way to prove mental abuse. What VAWA petition lawyers do to prove mental abuse is by providing evidence of confiscation of financial sources. Restricting their transportation, not providing food to the victim, making victims feel trapped in the house are considered mental and psychological abuses.

If you are a victim of any of these acts, contact a VAWA petition lawyer, describe the incident and let them figure out which evidence to gather.

Why should you hire a VAWA immigration attorney?

Depending on an abusive partner to get your legal permanent residency in the country you lived in for one or more years is something that no one should go through. Get the benefits of the Violation Against Women Act (VAWA) and get your permanent residency without the help of your abusive partner. The procedures might be complicated and time-consuming, but you will be free to live in the country without depending on anyone once your application is approved.

The guidance of an attorney is essential throughout the VAWA procedures. Filling the Application Form 1- 175 is not an easy process, and you will definitely need the help of a legal professional to handle it. In most cases, the VAWA petition attorney will not just be a legal adviser; they will help you guide you in taking the right measures to fight the abuse.

The other difficult task when it comes to filling your cases is documentation. An attorney can guide you throughout the process and help you gather all the required documents. And if you do not have records like doctors statements or affidavits from anyone else, you have to make your situation convincing in front of the court. An attorney will be able to gather every possible evidence to strengthen your plea and win the case.

So when you consult a VAWA attorney, you will get complete guidance on how to present your situation in front of the USCIS in a convincing way. And with their help, you do not have to go through the trauma of revisiting your abusive past. An attorney will refer you to a psychological practitioner to help you heal from the mental wounds you suffered from your abuser.

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