Self-Sponsoring Green Card For Victims Of Domestic Violence
Author: VAWA attorney Alena Shautsova
I write this blog to help those abused women (men as well, but in my practice the majority of people who turn over for help are females for some reason) who cannot afford an attorney, and are planning to self-sponsor themselves and their children for a permanent residency in the United States. While I have other articles addressing the process in general, here, I am focusing on submitting evidence for the I-360 form which is the actual basis for the adjustment of status and a replacement to the I 130 form (that should have been filed by the U.S. citizen spouse).
First, you need to know that you will be filing I 360 form when your spouse refused or withdrew I 130 form, or when that form got denied because your spouse stop cooperating. An I-360 form for VAWA applicants is free. It means that there is no fee that you need to submit with it according to the current USCIS instructions. You may find the form at www.uscis.gov website.
Second, if you were or are still married to a U.S. citizen, you may at the same time file I 485 form. This form that allows you to adjust status and became a permanent resident. The I 360 form only helps to establish that you are in fact a victim and deserve such a recognition. With the I 485 you will be submitting I 765 form which, in turn, will give you an employment authorization while the whole process is pending.
Now, the most important point that I would like to make here is that you need to prepare the evidence for I 360 form very well. The evidence will consist of two groups: one is the evidence of the “real marriage” and second group is the evidence showing harm and abuse. Very often applicants overlook the need of proving that there was a real marriage. Often, an application will think she does not have anything to show that the marriage was real because her ex took the phone, computers, photos, etc. Here, you need to stop and think: maybe, you can still reach out to the landlord where you guys used to reside together and he/she can provide a statement; maybe you can reach out to the person who sold you something before (a TV, a dog, a car, etc.); you should always be able to ask your neighbors and friends to provide statements as well. Do not underestimate your ex: if he was abusive during the relationship, chances are, he will continue trying to make your life harder after your split: he will try sending to the Immigration statements that you are a liar, that he divorced you in a foreign county 100 years ago, that all you ever wanted was a green card, etc. You need to anticipate that and address it in your statement that you will be submitting together with the form I 360. Your statement should cover sufficient details but should not be extremely long.
It may be that even after you submitted everything you could collect, the USCIS sends you a Request for More Evidence. Do not ignore it. Simply resubmit the evidence you had submitted before and try, to the best of your ability to attach at least a couple of new things.
It is very important to attach medical records or records of psychological evaluation confirming the harmful impact of the abuse. If possible, attach copies of the police reports and orders of protection. Often, the abuser will plead guilty to a much lesser charge than the one in the initial chargers. In this situation, try to obtain from the court a copy of the guilty plea to see what he admitted on the record prior to the judge giving him a lesser sentence.
Remember: there is help in Domestic Violence Centers and there are hot lines that are operating 24/7. There are shelters and free lawyers, and free doctors. You do not need to be shy and feel miserable all the time. You can find help and you can fix your life!