Applying for VAWA Immigration in Virginia

A VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) application is a means by which an individual can seek legal permanent resident status in the US. This application is available to those individual’s who suffered abuse in a marriage to a legal permanent resident or a US citizen. Consult with a Virginia immigration attorney experienced in VAWA applications to determine if you are eligible for this application, and if so, how to manage the application process.

Applying for VAWA

If an individual is not in removal proceedings, they will submit their VAWA application to USCIS. The VAWA application is on USCIS Form I-360. If they are married to a citizen, they will also apply for their adjustment of status application in conjunction with that I-360, and they will send the entire application and all of your supporting documentation through the mail to the USCIS office in Vermont. USCIS will make a decision on the individual’s case, which can sometimes take well over a year.

If an individual is in removal proceedings, they can apply for VAWA cancellation of removal. It has many of the same requirements, but they are actually applying to cancel their removal proceedings based on their marriage to a US citizen or legal permanent resident and the abuse that they suffered at his or her hands. They will apply directly with the immigration court in that case.

The earlier that an applicant knows about the documentary requirements for VAWA, the better. This is especially true in cases where it will be difficult to obtain proof of immigration status of the abuser. In some cases, where there is enough knowledge about the process, people contact an attorney while they are still living with their abuser. This initial period can be extremely important for VAWA applicants if they are trying to collect evidence of the abuser’s citizenship, residency status, a bonafide marriage, or joint residency. It may be possible to obtain documents while the abuser is not home, which serves a great benefit to the process overall.

Common Misconceptions

A common misconception about VAWA applications is that they require police reports, hospital records, or an extensive amount of hard documentary evidence, which is not the case. A personal statement can be powerful, and may even serve as the key piece of evidence in many cases. Moreover, many people think that applicants need to have been physically abused to qualify. This is also not true. A person can qualify for VAWA if they have been a victim of extreme emotional, psychological, mental, or sexual abuse. All types of abuse qualify when submitting a VAWA application.

Reasons for Rejection

A VAWA application can be rejected for a number of reasons. One reason is that the government does not believe that the applicant has actually suffered substantial harm. Maybe they suffered some abuse, but it did not amount to the level that necessary to be granted VAWA, or they may believe that the applicant’s marriage was not bona fide. An application can be rejected when the applicant is unable to prove cohabitation and the adjudicator believes that they entered into the marriage solely for immigration reasons.

They may determine, for instance, that they had a divorce in their past that was not finalized, and so their current marriage to the abuser is not valid. An application can also be rejected because of an individual’s criminal record.

Alternatively, there might be difficulty in proving the abuser’s lawful status, and that can be a problem in many cases because someone might have fled an abusive relationship and not had the ability to make a copy of the abuser’s passport, birth certificate, naturalization certificate or green card. If the applicant does not have that documentation and if the government cannot verify that the abuser was in fact a resident or citizen, then they are not going to be able to be granted VAWA status. Luckily, this problem is becoming less common because USCIS can generally find the abuser’s information in their database if the applicant is able to provide sufficient biographical information.

After Receiving Approval

What happens after a VAWA application is approved depends on whether or not the applicant is married to a US citizen and whether or not they are immediately eligible for adjustment of status.

If the individual was married to a US citizen and they filed their adjustment of status application in conjunction with their VAWA application, then they will be granted together and they will be in legal permanent resident status when the application is approved.

In cases that involve an abused individual who is married to a legal permanent resident rather than a citizen, he or she has to wait for his or her priority date to become current. Then he or she can apply for permanent residency and eventually for citizenship.

Children

Children have two methods for applying for VAWA. If the child has been abused by a US citizen or legal permanent resident parent, the child can be the direct applicant. If the adult or the parent has been the victim of the abuse, the minor child can apply as a derivative on the parent’s application so they do not need to prove that they have been abused themselves.

It is a very different process when the applicant is an abused child because dealing with children is a lot more sensitive. If a minor child explains that they have been abused, there will be a lot of other government entities that an attorney may want to get involved, like Child Protective Services.

An attorney needs to make sure that the child is safe, in a safe environment, and is being properly cared for. Often, this may become a criminal matter as well. It is more complicated when the victim is a minor because it is important to be more cognizant of the well-being of the child.

An attorney can connect victims with the resources and people that can help them get out of the situation. For children, this is more sensitive and crucial.