A VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) case is for family members of permanent residents or U.S. citizens who have suffered cruelty in a relationship, it can be physical, sexual, but it can also be emotional or financial abuse.
A person who is in a relationship as a parent, as a child, as a husband or wife with a U.S. citizen could petition that person in the immigration process but does not want to do so, because he or she has his or her relative under control.
VAWA allows those undocumented immigrants to be able to immigrate and do the immigration process, get their permanent residency without needing the help of their abuser, without needing to say anything about that person, that whole process can be a secret and no one has to know about the process.
What Evidence Is Good For VAWA?
The immigrant has to send a VAWA application to the immigration agency, and when the VAWA case is in progress, they have to prove the relationship with the abuser, for example, if it is a marriage between them, they have to prove that it is a bona fide marriage by providing a marriage certificate or if it is something more informal, you have to prove that these individuals live together.
If it is a mother or a father, and the abuse is directed at a child, we will want to use the child’s birth certificate to prove that that person is the immigrant’s father or mother, that is the first thing we have to prove, the relationship between them, we also have to prove that the immigrant has suffered cruelty, and this is a very important point in a VAWA case, but it is very important to know that we do not have to give evidence of a report to the police, we do not have to prove physical abuse such as beatings.
We can apply in a VAWA case with only the written history of the immigrant and perhaps letters from witnesses, so we can send whatever evidence we have available, and we are not required to file a police report.
Also, something important that we have to prove is the good moral character of the immigrant, we normally submit evidence of someone who does not have a serious criminal record as part of the VAWA application.
What If The Victim Still Lives With The Abuser?
It is important to say that an immigrant applying for VAWA can live with the abuser, can be living with their partner, with their parents or children, this ensures that regardless of whether they are divorced or separated, the victim cannot report their case and apply for this legal resource.
Everything that happens in a VAWA case is a secret, everything is confidential, we are not going to talk to anyone about your case, but the same happens with the immigration agency, it is illegal to talk to other people about this type of case including the abuser, they cannot make calls or accept information from any user.
It is something relatively normal in an abusive marriage, where the citizen who is the abuser begins a series of threats inciting that you can not leave the house, you can not spend money, you can not see your friends, among other ways to generate control over the person.
These threats usually mention that they are going to call immigration to process your deportation, however, in a VAWA case, immigration cannot take those calls, they cannot take that information, and they are not going to do anything with the information that the abuser is giving.
If the abuser is a citizen and was born in the United States, the immigration agency cannot do anything against that person.
The good thing about this type of case for victims is that there is no risk of having to press charges against the person who is abusing you, having to go to the police and give testimony in criminal court as in the case of the U Visa which is the Visa for victims of crime, they have to make a report to the police and cooperate with the investigation, but you don’t have to do that in this case.
It is possible to file a VAWA case by simply having lived with your abuser, they will never realize that you started this case if you do not tell that person, so the only way a person could be affected perhaps, is if the abuser is the permanent resident and that person is going to apply for citizenship for example because immigration has power against that person who has his or her Green Card and wants to get his or her citizenship.
There is a way in the agency to connect the case information from the person who applied for VAWA to the abuser who is going to apply for U.S. citizenship, so in that situation, we cannot promise that that person will not be affected, but when we are talking about an abuser who is a U.S. citizen, immigration cannot do anything.
Are Men Eligible For VAWA?
50% of our VAWA cases are male cases, it is a very common thing for us to represent men who are petitioning and applying for this case.
At Lincoln-Goldfinch Law we are very successful with these types of cases, and many people have the misconception that because it is a man’s case it is more difficult than a woman’s case, for example.
Although the acronym of this type of VAWA program, which stands for the Violence Against Women Act, may seem to be only for women, the truth is that anyone who has suffered abuse of any kind by a U.S. citizen is eligible for this program.
Do I Qualify For VAWA If I Defended Myself?
At Lincoln-Goldfinch Law we have had cases of this type, and it is something very common, when the police arrive they do not know who the aggressor was and for example, if the police do not speak Spanish they are going to take the words of the person who speaks English only, so they tend to make mistakes many times when it is a domestic violence case and arrest the wrong person in that situation.
The first thing to focus on is the charges and dropping the charges because if you get a domestic violence conviction it’s going to be hard to win your VAWA case, but if you were arrested and had charges but then they were dropped, we can tell the incident of the history of the relationship and what exactly happened that day and tell the perspective of the immigrant who is asking for VAWA, so it’s a situation that we can handle in a VAWA case.
Is There A Time Limit For Applying For VAWA?
There is no deadline after the assault you suffered, but there is a deadline in VAWA cases that is very important, and that is that you must submit your I-360 application within two years after a divorce, of the divorce order.
If for example, the date of your divorce order was January 27, 2020, exactly 2 years later is your deadline, and the VAWA case by then has to have reached the immigration office for you to qualify, and unfortunately, even if it is one day after those 2 years, you cannot apply, so it is a very important deadline but it does not matter when that violent situation occurred, if for example you got married 10 years ago, separated 8 years ago but are still legally married, you can still apply for VAWA, but if you got divorced more than 2 years ago you will not qualify for the program.
Do I Have To Separate If I Apply For VAWA?
Most of our clients who start the VAWA case living with the abuser, separate during the process because they are not in a good or healthy relationship, it is not a requirement under VAWA law to separate or divorce.
You can move on if things get better, you can get your Green Card and continue with your marriage, or you can separate or divorce, it doesn’t matter, the only important thing is that the deadline in VAWA, that you apply within 2 years after the divorce order.
What If My Abuser Knows About My VAWA Petition?
There is a Confidentiality Law 8 USC 1367 establishing that when someone has applied for VAWA, it means that their case is already in the hands of immigration, no matter what the status of the case is, whether it is pending or approved.
The immigration agency cannot talk to the abuser, cannot accept information or provide information to that person, this is protection, especially for victims of abuse. and it is something that is prohibited, this law supports that no one in immigration, no agent or deporter, no one can talk to the abuser when someone has turned a VAWA case over to the authorities.
How Does VAWA Handle Threats?
For these types of situations where the victim is threatened by the abuser, we will need more information on your case, you should keep in mind that you do not need to have been beaten or physically harmed to qualify for this program.
If a wife is the one threatening or trying to control her husband, that is probably going to be a VAWA case that we at Lincoln-Goldfinch can pursue.
Another very common situation is when someone has started a case with their spouse to adjust status, but things in their relationship take a turn for the worse and the applicant wants to change their case to a VAWA case, it is possible to do so.
Sometimes it is easier to switch from one case to another when we already have the I-130 filed or approved with immigration, which is the family petition, because that part of the VAWA case would already be done, which is to have the evidence that the citizen spouse is a bona fide married couple, that is where we can focus solely on the abuse, in our office we like it when we already have the I-130 pending or approved with immigration.
An important aspect is that when an attorney is representing a couple or a U.S. citizen husband who is petitioning for his Mexican wife, the clients are the two of them, and if the scenario occurs that they separate and she needs to make a VAWA case, the same attorney will not be able to do so because that U.S. citizen was also a client, so you cannot prejudice or take action against the intentions of a former client.
People who may go through this type of situation may have to change attorneys because they either do not trust their attorney or because an attorney who has started a couple’s case cannot do the VAWA case for one of them.
At Lincoln-Goldfinch Law, for example, we have colleagues in whom we have a lot of confidence and we can refer our clients to them, and those colleagues do so with us as well, so we can pass them on without any problem to a person who is our client and who needs the help of a trusted lawyer.
How Long Does A VAWA Case Take?
We have been doing these types of cases for 15 years now, and there was a case of a client who had a criminal record of drug trafficking, and that was a detail we did not know and consequently, his case was denied.
Otherwise, 99% of the cases we have worked with, which would be the majority, have been successful if approved.
In the case of VAWA case processing time alone it can take up to 2 years but normally in 90% of our cases we are doing an adjustment of status included with VAWA, and that comes with a work permit.
Most of the time we can get the work permit in about 6 to 9 months and the Green Card in 2 years.
What Happens If I Am Denied VAWA? Can I Be Deported?
At the moment that is not something that is happening, although it could change.
In President Trump’s presidency, he made a memo during his term saying that all immigration cases that were denied during his presidency could be immediately moved to deportation, including cases of victims of crime and domestic violence, then that made it so that there was a time of risk for immigrants who were denied in their immigration case.
In our cases or those of our colleagues, we did not see many people being deported, but it was a possibility during that time.
Now with the new President Biden, we are not seeing that, so we can say that in our experience it is not risky to apply for VAWA even though you may be denied. it is not risky to apply for VAWA even though you may be denied.
Unapproved cases are not causing people to be placed in deportation proceedings after a negative decision, except for people who are priorities for deportation, people who have criminal records such as violence, drugs, or theft, those people who have those records in their situation, should be careful before requesting anything from immigration and should consult their case with an attorney.
In case you have additional questions about the VAWA program, your type of abuse, or about your specific case, you can contact us at (855) 502-0555. After a short 10 minute evaluation of your case over the phone we will let you know what options you have. You can also follow us on our social networks so as not to miss our weekly transmissions via Facebook, YouTube & Twitch.