If you are applying for U.S. lawful permanent residence (a
green card) under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), actual abuse within
the U.S. by your U.S. citizen spouse- or parent-petitioner is one of the key
facts that you will need to prove. (It’s not the only thing you will need to
prove; see “Proving Your VAWA Case: Evidence to Submit” for details on the
remaining types of evidence.)
Exactly how you prove to the satisfaction of USCIS that you
were the subject of abuse in the U.S. depends in part on the type of abuse. To
qualify under the law, it can be battery or extreme cruelty, for example physical
violence, threats or display or a weapon, rape, incest, or unwanted sexual
contact or interaction, forced detention, forced prostitution, psychological
abuse or harassment, or other forms of extreme cruelty, even without actual
violence. The facts of your particular situation will also play a role in the
types of evidence you can come up with.
Do not worry that you must have any one particular type of
document. Many different types of documents, photos, reports, and statements,
in combination with each other, will work to prove this aspect of your case.
Below are some ideas.
reports and abuser’s arrest records. If you ever called the police on your
abuser based on domestic violence or other violence at your house or against
your property, a report was likely made, and you can request a copy of it. You
may, however, have to show an identity document; provide information about the
abuser, such as name and birthdate; and remember the approximate date of the
statements. An officer who visited you recently because of a domestic
violence call may be willing to write up a declaration or statement about what
he or she saw. This will likely contain more useful detail than a police
of emergency calls. If you called 911 or an equivalent emergency number, a
recording of this was likely made, and later written out. These are typically
available to the public, after providing information about the date and time
and paying a fee.
- Court orders
(restraining, stay away, or protection). If you were able to get a court
order stating that your abuser was to stay away from you, this is excellent
evidence of abuse. By providing some personal information, you should be able
to obtain a copy. Or, if a lawyer helped you obtain that order, ask him or her
for a copy.
- Doctor or
hospital records. If you were treated for injuries resulting from the abuse
at any clinic, doctor’s office, emergency room, or the like, a record was no
doubt made of your visit. You have a right to a copy of these records. These
are excellent evidence even if you didn’t mention the abuse at the time (many
victims of battery are afraid or embarrassed to state the true cause of their
injuries). You will, however, want to attach a declaration to your application
(as discussed below) explaining why you didn’t tell the medical staff about the
true cause of your injuries.
medical report about long-term injuries. Even if you didn’t go to a doctor at the time of the abuse, a doctor
might be able to examine you now and write up a report about long-term injury
to your body that you have suffered, such as facial alterations or a limp.
or therapeutic records. If you have seen a psychiatrist, therapist,
counselor, or other mental health or social worker about emotional or mental
issues in any way connected to the abuse, those records will also be helpful.
from psychiatrist or therapist. Your mental health professional may be able
to write a summary statement about issues that you have discussed around the
abuse, your marriage or other relationship with the abuser, stress that you
were under because of your family situation, the consistency of your statements
and symptoms with that of abuse victims in general, and so forth.
- Shelter records.
If you ever visited, consulted, or spent time in a battered women’s or domestic
violence shelter, it will have records of your statements and the length of
your visit. For obvious reasons, the shelter will want to be extra careful about
releasing the information, so you will have to be ready to prove your identity
and explain your reason for requesting this material.
from shelter staff. If you got to know any staff people or volunteers at
the shelter particularly well, and they would remember you or details of your
case, you might want to ask that person to write up a declaration discussing
from pastor or religious leader. If you ever sought advice about the abuse
from a priest, minister, rabbi, or other person from your faith community, that
person may be willing to write up a declaration detailing your conversations.
- Phone records. If the abuser was harrassing you by means of frequent phone calls, help prove this with documentation from the phone company.
- School records.
If a child (either the victim of abuse or a family member) mentioned what was
going on to a teacher, principal, or other staff person at school, it’s
possible that they made a record of it. Contact the school to find out how to
obtain such records.
If you or a friend took pictures showing your bruising or other injuries or
casts over broken bones, these will also serve as evidence. Be sure to include
an explanation of when and why the photo was taken and what type of abuse
caused the injuries shown.
- Emails or
notes from the abuser. If he or she wrote any threatening, controlling, or
cruel material – or even an apology for past behavior – these are excellent
evidence of abuse.
from friends, neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances. Anyone who heard or
saw the abuser controlling you, behaving in a cruel manner, beating you, and so
on; or to whom you spoke about what you were suffering; can write a declaration
from you. You should tell the whole story of whatever physical abuse and
cruelty you suffered, along with filling in any needed details surrounding the
other parts of your claim.
For information on preparing a basic declaration, see “Creating
Substitute Documents or Affidavits for Immigration Applications.” Declarations
from witnesses in a VAWA case will, however, need to be much longer and more
detailed than the sample one shown in that article. The writer should explain
his or her relationship to the VAWA applicant, the approximate dates or time
span of your interactions and conversations, and as much as possible about his
or her observations of what happened between the abuser and you or remembrances
of what you described or complained of.
If you still feel you don’t have enough proof of having
suffered abuse, seek help from a nonprofit or attorney who serves immigrants.