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Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer to Apply for VAWA?

Posted on September 21, 2022
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By Trixie Torres

Although hiring an immigration lawyer is not required, it is in the best interest of the VAWA applicant to do so. The VAWA process has two forms of application, but they both require evidentiary documents. If any documents are missing for either application, your application will be delayed or even denied. For this reason, hiring a VAWA Immigration Lawyer can be beneficial in your case because they will be able to guide you and help you gather all the required documents for each application. 

If you are a victim, it's best to practice safe web or private browsing (Visit RAINN) to ensure no one else is monitoring them. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 or visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline.   

How Can an Immigration Lawyer Help You? 

VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) is a federal law for battered immigrants (spouse, parent, or child) whose family member is abusive towards them. The abusive spouse or family member, either U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident, threatens the victim and refuses to continue helping them in the immigration process and obtain legal permanent resident status (a green card). VAWA gives the victim an opportunity to “Self-Petition” without the abuser’s knowledge or consent. 

It can be very stressful for a victim who is experiencing domestic violence to begin the process of applying for VAWA, but a lawyer can provide emotional support and guide you every step of the way. VAWA can be complicated and thus without legal aid, you may struggle to meet all requirements.

Can an Immigration Lawyer Help you Apply for a VAWA Self-Petition 

Yes, a lawyer can help you with the application to self-petition. There are very specific requirements that you must meet in order to file a VAWA. All VAWA self-petitioners are required to file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, and include supporting evidence and proof such as:

  • Identification
  • Marriage certificates 
  • Proof the marriage was done in good faith (Bona Fide) 
  • A written declaration of the abuse you endured
  • Proof of address
  • You live or lived with your abuser in the United States

In some cases, an abuser may withhold the victim's documentation and other forms of proof. This is where you and your immigration attorney can find ways to collect the documents discreetly. They may also be able to find other means if you are unable to gather this information. 

In addition, you also have to provide evidence supporting your claim, and you may have a hard time constructing a persuasive declaration, but your attorney will help you develop a persuasive one so that you win your case. Your lawyer will plan, help, and guide you through the VAWA application process and also be able to take on the case without you having to request documents from your abuser. 

You will also have the choice to send all USCIS notifications to your lawyer, a friend, or another mailing address of your choice; this way you will not have to worry that your abuser is aware of your VAWA case.  

The VAWA Immigration Lawyer will help you with the Adjustment of Status Through VAWA 

Once USCIS has approved your VAWA petition, you can move forward to step 2 by filing Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status. Your Vawa Immigration lawyer will contact you and help you with these forms and gather further documents as they did in the last application. This application is long and requires lots of additional documents (read Green Card for VAWA Self-Petitioner.)

It’s best to have a professional and experienced  immigration lawyer help you navigate through the entire process.

Generally, all applicants are required to have their VAWA self-petition approved before filing an adjustment of status. However, there may be some cases in which you can file both simultaneously, nevertheless speak to your lawyer if this is an option for your case. 

How Much Does an Immigration Attorney Cost? 

In addition to providing legal aid and emotional support, an immigration lawyer can also provide financial assistance during the VAWA and Adjustment of Status application process. 

Hiring an immigratiuon lawyer can be expensive, but there are legal aid organizations that may be able to help you with cutting the cost. Some lawyers may also consider doing your case as a “Pro Bono'' (Free) or at a cost that you may be able to afford. Lawyers that handle difficult cases such as these know that victims are vulnerable and will take it into consideration when it comes to cost. Don't be afraid to ask for financial help, they are there to help you.

Final Thoughts about Hiring An immigration lawyer to apply for vawa

If you decide not to hire an attorney and fail to follow the rules for filing a VAWA, your application will be delayed or even denied. When the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) identifies missing documents, they will reject your application and it may take even more time to process it.

In essence, there is absolutely no room for errors when it comes to filing a VAWA and Adjustment of Status application. A good immigration lawyer can make a huge difference in your VAWA case because they will review it very carefully and help you avoid common problems that could cost you your claim.

Vawa Immigration Lawyer FAQs

Can I Apply for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) By Myself? 

Yes, you can begin by filing a “self-petition” Form I-360 and include the required documents. Before you apply, ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements. Once your VAWA petition is approved, you can apply for an adjustment of status (a green card).

How Much Does it Cost to File VAWA? 

There is no fee for the VAWA application, however, if you hire an attorney to help you in the application process, they may charge a fee. 

How Long Does it Take for VAWA to Get Approved? 

It can take anywhere from 16-21 months or longer to process your VAWA application. However, if your application is incomplete and there are required documents missing, your application will be delayed.

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