Important Factors in VAWA Cases

The first thing a Maryland VAWA immigration attorney will want to determine for VAWA applicants who are inquiring about their eligibility for VAWA status is to see if they have met the basic requirements of being married to the abuser, and the abuser’s legal immigration status.

One exception to the married role is that the applicant does not have to be married to the abuser at the time they file the application. A person can actually file for VAWA status up to two years after a divorce or the abuser’s death. So, if an individual has been divorced from the person, as long as they apply within two years of the date of the abuser’s death or that the divorce became final, they can still be eligible.

Obstacles Providing Sufficient Evidence

In some cases, if a person cannot prove sufficient supporting evidence, an attorney can work with those individuals because the VAWA unit is trained to evaluate these cases through the lens of understanding  what abusive relationships are like and the types of situations where control and isolation can result from an abusive relationship. So in some cases, it is possible to work with very little in cases where there was extreme abuse with very little documentation.

Another common obstacle applicants and their attorneys run into is that individuals don’t have documentation proving the abuser’s citizenship status. By providing as much biographical information about the abuser as the applicant can to USCIS and then having them perform an independent check will often be sufficient.

Other obstacles with supporting evidence are proving cohabitation. The lawyers can get creative with those situations such as submitting letters from everyone who knew the applicant and knew they were living with the abuser. The applicant can go back and talk to neighbors. They can create the body of evidence after they have left the relationship in many cases.

Those types of things can help to address evidentiary deficiencies, but it really depends on the case and the evidentiary holes that USCIS may find in the applicant’s case. It’s really a case specific analysis. While the applicant alone may not be able to prove the abuse and all other requirements does not mean that they are not going to be eligible, but it does mean that they should get the help of an attorney.

Other Factors

They should know that the VAWA application is a slow process, but it’s important to begin it quickly because once the relationship dissolves, especially if a divorce becomes final, then they have a limited period of time in order to apply.

It is, therefore, important to keep the timeframe in mind and also understand that you may have suffered from a horrible abuse and ensure that the USCIS adjudicator will have enough evidence  in order to justify their position and their approval.

Role of an Attorney

The VAWA application process can set a very high bar, especially in cases where there’s not a tremendous amount of hard evidence like police reports or medical records. It is a very delicate process and the application requires knowledge of what type of evidence USCIS values and accepts.

So it’s very important to have an attorney in this process. It’s also just a really complex analysis in some case where there are other grounds of inadmissibility that the individual may be subject to but unaware of.

It’s not a straightforward application where the applicant just sends the form and a letter and expects to have an approval. The documentary evidence is very high to prevent fraud. Many times, this is the only option for people without status to have an opportunity to remain in the United States so they definitely want to ensure that only eligible people qualify.

Can I Do it on my Own?

Any type of legal procedure in the United States can be done without an attorney, however, as an experienced lawyer that has processed a lot of these cases, they are fairly complex applications that  require a very large body of evidence. So it’s highly advisable that if you can afford one, you hire an attorney.

Additionally, there are actually a lot of legal service providers that can help with VAWA applications free of cost. There are a lot of pro bono services that work with domestic violence shelters and things of that nature that can help you if you can’t afford an attorney.