Note: This article is about the VAWA self-petition for battered spouses, and not about the U-visa for victims of certain violent crimes.
This article is based on the countless consultations with battered spouses and numerous presentations on the immigration options for victims of domestic violence I’ve done over the years. These are what I think are the five worst misconceptions about the VAWA (“Violence Against Women Act”) self-petitions.
Myth #1: There has to be a police report. Without going into technicalities, USCIS has to consider what we call “any credible evidence”, which includes the victim’s and other witnesses’ testimonies. The USCIS officers tasked with adjudicating VAWA self-petitions are highly trained and can easily discern between credible and false testimony. Most of the cases that I’ve submitted lacked police reports, but were accompanied by highly detailed affidavits, and all have been approved.
Myth #2: Immigration will contact the abuser. It’s not just policy, but it’s actually illegal for any government official to contact the alleged abuser or to divulge the existence of the self-petition. Other than an accidental or intentional disclosure by the victim, there’s no way for the abuser to find out that the victim is in the self-petition process.
Myth #3: You must show pictures of the bruises. Most abuse isn’t violent enough to visibly bruise the victim, and therefore, pictures aren’t needed. Also, before the advent of the smartphone, it was extremely rare to have a camera handy to document the abuse. Self-petitions have been and will continue to be approved without any pictures of the abuse.
Myth #4: The abuser must have physically abused you. This is probably the most damaging myth. Unfortunately, some people from some nationalities tend to equate domestic violence with physical violence. These innocent beings are not aware that in this country, domestic violence includes emotional and verbal abuse.
Myth #5: You will face deportation if your self-petition is denied. You have nothing to fear if you’re truthful in your self-petition and it’s denied for insufficient evidence. That’s OK. There’s a huge difference, however, between a denial based on lack of evidence, and a denial based on fraudulent evidence. The former carries no penalties, but the latter will rightfully expose the applicant to removal proceedings.