What Must a VAWA petitioner prove?
In the case of an abused spouse, he or she must show that:
- Abuser is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- Entered into a legal, good-faith marriage - The VAWA self-petitioner cannot have entered into a marriage for the primary purpose of circumventing the immigration laws. The self-petitioner's intent is key here. Thus, if she intended to establish a life with the abuser at the time of the marriage, the good-faith marriage requirement should be satisfied. It is for this reason that intended spouses - those who entered into bigamous marriages - may be eligible for VAWA relief so long as they can show that they entered those marriages in good faith. If the VAWA self-petitioner or her abuser has been previously married, she must also submit evidence of the legal termination of those marriages.
- Battery or extreme cruelty by abuser - These terms are defined broadly in the law to mean "any act or threatened act of violence, including any forceful detention, which results or threatens to result in physical or mental injury." Acts of violence may include psychological abuse or sexual abuse, including rape, molestation, or incest. Examples of extreme cruelty include social isolation, threats, economic abuse, and other conduct which is intended to control or maintain power over the victim.
- Joint residence with abuser - VAWA self-petitioners must provide evidence that they have resided with their abusers. However, joint residence may have occurred in another country.
- Good moral character - This eligibility requirement must be established for the three years preceding the filing of the VAWA self-petition. While USCIS's inquiry should focus on the three years before filing the petition, acts or convictions prior to this three-year period may also be examined.
Standard of Proof
The standard of proof applied in adjudicating VAWA petitions is "any credible evidence."