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Often, immigrants are taken advantage of and abused because they are not yet permanent residents or citizens of the United States. Their US spouses can believe that they are “above the law” and use the immigrant’s sensitive immigration status – or lack thereof – against them as a fear or intimidation tactic. Even worse, some immigrant spouses, parents or children of Lawful Permanent Residents or US Citizens are subject to extreme cruelty and battery at the hands of their US Citizen or Resident family member. For this reason, in 1994, Congress passed the Violence against Women (VAWA) Act, to provide opportunities for battered non-citizen spouses and children to self-petition for legal permanent residence. VAWA legislation was most recently re-authorized in 2013 thanks to the efforts of immigration advocacy and domestic violence prevention groups.
Domestic abuse, also called "domestic violence" or "intimate partner violence", can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. A VAWA lawyer in Miami can help you with your VAWA petition and make the whole process much more comfortable. People who qualify for VAWA can apply for legal status in the U.S. and obtain a work permit and driver’s license while waiting for their case to be processed.
What is VAWA, and how do I qualify?
VAWA applicants must prove that they are (or were within the past two years) the spouse or child of an abusive U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident, and must be able to provide evidence that the relationship was legitimate and that there was abuse and/or battery. Victims can submit a wide range of evidence in order to prove the abuse, including personal declarations, affidavits from medical personnel, school officials, clergy, social workers, mental health professionals or other friends or family members who were aware of the abuse, as well as documentation of other “nonqualifying” incidents or abuses that could be considered part of an overall pattern of abuse.
The VAWA petition allows some children, parents, and spouses of U.S. citizens to file a petition for themselves, without having to report to the abuser. These provisions are available for both men and women. Those eligible to record are:
Spouse: You can either file for yourself if you are the abused spouse of a citizen or if a U.S citizen has abused your child. Unmarried children under 21 years of age can be included.
Parent: If you are the parent of a U.S. citizen and your US citizen children have abused you, you are eligible to file.
Child: You can file for yourself if you are an unmarried abused child under 21 years of age who has been abused by a U.S. citizen.
What are the requirements for VAWA?
The requirements for a VAWA case can vary depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. VAWA works for spouses, parents or children who have been abused by a permanent resident or a United States citizen. VAWA also works for children or spouses of marriage-based cases for certain classes of people, like Cuban Adjustment, NACARA, and HRIFA. In the ‘marriage-based’ VAWA, the self-petitioning spouse will have to prove:
- The abusive spouse is currently or was in the past, a green card holder or United States citizen.
- The abusive spouse is a US citizen or permanent resident who was legally married to the person applying for VAWA.
- The individual applying for VAWA lived with the abuser.
- The permanent resident or US citizen spouse abused the individual applying for VAWA during the marriage.
- The marriage was for good reasons ‘bona fide’ and not to obtain immigration benefits.
- The VAWA applicant is of “good moral character” as determined by a background check and corroborating evidence for a specified period of time.
For children, the applicant must prove that the parent-child relationship exists or existed, the applicant resided with the abusive parent, and that he or she is a person of good moral character.
For parents, they must prove the parent – child relationship, that the child is at least 21 years old, suffered extreme cruelty or battery by the child, resided with the abusive child, and that they are a person of good moral character.
What is a Miami VAWA Lawyer, and Why do I Need One?
Our experienced Miami VAWA attorneys understand the urgency and high stakes of these delicate cases, and we are here to work compassionately and diligently on your case. In a VAWA case, you must prove all of the factors with sufficient evidence because there is no interview or chance to tell your story to an officer – your case is either approved or denied based on the paperwork you submit. Further, because these cases are typically more delayed than a standard marriage-based case, it is even more important that you submit the correct evidence the first time to avoid additional delays in your case. A VAWA lawyer can help you ensure your case is filed without errors and with sufficient evidence to avoid unnecessary delay.
What is the Importance of Hiring a VAWA Attorney?
Hiring an immigration attorney is important in all immigration cases, but it is even more crucial for VAWA cases that are many times decided based on the Applicant’s story alone and other sworn testimony. In cases where there was no police report or restraining order to document physical violence, which is the case in over half of VAWA cases, a VAWA lawyer can help advise you on other evidence that can be obtained to prove your case. For example, a letter from a good immigration psychologist may be necessary to show emotional or psychological injury to the noncitizen.
Further, when you hire an Immigration Lawyers USA VAWA attorney, you have someone that guides you through the whole process, which can be long and confusing. The application itself is emotionally difficult so it’s important to have someone that can be disconnected emotionally from the situation to help you assemble the strongest argument. Moreover, after your case is filed, you can call us anytime to check on the status of your case, and we can let you know if all is going as planned according to government processing times. This will give you the peace of mind to move on with your life while the case is pending and heal from the trauma caused by your US Citizen or Resident spouse.
What is the Process to Apply for VAWA with a Lawyer?
1) Hiring an attorney
The first part of the process is to hire and meet with an experienced VAWA attorney to discuss your case. Once you have hired him or her, your VAWA lawyer can help you start by guiding you through and revising your personal declaration that explains the abuse you suffered in thorough detail. This declaration can help your VAWA lawyer see what additional evidence should be accessible in your case and what sworn statements should be requested from family and friends.
2) Gather Supporting Evidence
Your VAWA lawyer will give you a list of evidence to gather in your case, as well as make suggestions as to who should write a sworn statement for you after they have read your personal declaration of abuse. You will then want to start gathering the supporting evidence as soon as possible, as some items will take time to obtain. Sometimes your lawyer will recommend you meet with an immigration therapist or psychologist, which can take weeks to get on the schedule. Make sure you have a copy of any police reports or restraining orders filed.
3) Complete the USCIS Forms with Your Attorney
Your VAWA lawyer will give you a Questionnaire to fill out when you begin working with her. Send that back to her as soon as you have it completed so that her staff can complete the USCIS forms for you. Then, your paralegal will send you the forms to review for accuracy. Once everything is complete and accurate, you can sign the forms and send them back to your VAWA lawyer.
4) Submit the VAWA Application Packet
Once you have completed all the USCIS forms, your VAWA lawyer will compile all of your evidence and create a cover letter explaining what everything is and how it supports your qualification for VAWA. Then, she will submit the entire packet to the USCIS Vermont Service Center, which is the service center that deals exclusively with VAWA and U visa applicants.
5) Take Your Fingerprints
Finally, a few weeks after the application is submitted you’ll receive a notice to take your fingerprints. Bring your ID and the fingerprint notice with you that day.
6) Submit Further Evidence As Requested, and Receive a Decision
After the fingerprints are taken, you just need to wait! The next item you’ll receive is either a request for evidence from the government that they need further evidence to adjudicate your case (which you can likely avoid by hiring a good VAWA lawyer) or you’ll get a decision. Hopefully, you will get the decision granting your VAWA case!
Essential Point to Note for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) - it Also Protects Men!
Something very important to keep in mind is the fact that even if the act`s name includes the word “Women” in it, abused man can also apply as long as the eligibility requirements are met.
Violence should be dealt with no matter what the gender of the victim is. The bill is gender-neutral, and it doesn’t assume guilt against male offenders.
Hire the Top VAWA Lawyers in Miami, Florida!
Now that you know why having an experienced VAWA attorney is necessary, it’s time to hire Immigration Lawyers USA in Miami, Florida! We have some of the best VAWA lawyers in Miami, Florida and in the United States. We're highly experienced in the VAWA process and will fight hard to make your case as strong as possible with our close attention to detail and our over 10 years of experience in exclusively immigration law. If you're looking for a firm with great reviews that can guide you through the process, give Immigration Lawyers USA a call at 305-501-0783! You can also schedule a consultation here.