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					                        Obtaining Lawful Permanent Residency
                       Through the Violence Against Women Act

                       A VAWA Manual for Pro Bono Advocates

                         Legal Services Center for Immigrants
                  Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago

           111 West Jackson Boulevard • Suite 300 • Chicago, Illinois 60604-3502
Telephone: (312) 341-1070 • Fax: (312) 341-1041 • TDD: (312) 431-1206 •

                                   March 2005
                                   TABLE OF CONTENTS

      Introduction and Welcome                                                     2


VAWA Eligibility Outline                                                           3
“Barriers Faced by Noncitizen Survivors of Domestic Violence,” outline based on
  article by Gail Pendleton for ABA Commission on Domestic Violence                4


VAWA Eligibility Questionnaire                                                      8
VAWA Interview Guide                                                                9
List of Suggested Documents in Support of I-360 (English and 14 other languages)   14
Chicago Area Immigrant Battered Women‟s Services                                   16
Chicago Area Immigration Legal Services                                            19
Basic Procedures for LAF‟s Pro Bono VAWA Project                                   20


The Affidavit: Practice Tips                                                       22
Sample Affidavits                                                                  24

PART 4        THE I-360 FORM

Completing the I-360: Practice Tips                                                28


Extreme cruelty questionnaire (in English and Spanish)                             31
Sample Certificate of Translator‟s Competence                                      37
How to Get Proof for CIS of Outcome of Criminal Arrests                            38
Guidelines for letter of support from counselor, advocate, or other DV expert      39

Filing the VAWA Petition: Practice Tips                         43
Sample Fee Waiver Requests (2 versions)                         44

                   SERVICES (CIS)

CIS Responses: Practice Tips                                    46


Eligibility for Employment Authorization and Practice Tips      48
Public Benefits for Immigrant Abuse Survivors                   50


Adjustment of Status for VAWA Petitioners                       51

                                Introduction and Welcome
    Domestic violence, terrifying for anyone, presents special dilemmas for immigrants who lack
legal residency status in the U.S. Take the case of Nayeli*, who came here from rural Mexico
and later met and married her husband, a naturalized U.S. citizen. Intensely possessive of his
young wife, he forbid her to study English, learn to drive, work outside the home, talk to
neighbors, or even visit her own relatives. He began to insult her constantly, calling her an
ignorant country girl who could never learn anything, and accusing her of only wanting to meet
other men. Sometimes, he would slap or shove her. Though he petitioned her and got her legal
residency application on file, he held this over her, threatening to cancel his petition if she ever
dared to disobey him or call the police.

    With the birth of their son, Nayeli hoped her husband would change, but he seemed pleased
that now it was even harder for her to go out. Then one night, the family went to a holiday party
in their building. When Nayeli accepted an invitation to dance, her husband became enraged and
demanded she return home at once. At their apartment, he began insulting and then beating her.
Neighbors overheard and called 911, and Nayeli was rushed to the emergency room.

    On her release from the hospital, Nayeli returned home, desperate to be reunited with her
baby. She felt she had nowhere else to go, and she feared what her husband always said -- that if
she left him, he would get her deported, and if she called the police, they would believe him, the
citizen -- not her, because she was “just a worthless illegal.” As the months went on, her
husband grew ever more jealous and violent, but fearing separation from her child, Nayeli never
called the police. Then a letter came from Immigration for her interview for adjustment to
permanent residency. Her husband angrily told her he wouldn‟t attend. Instead, he said, he was
calling INS so they would deport her, and he would keep their son.

    Desperate, Nayeli at last confided in a neighbor, who told her about a domestic violence
support organization that a friend had gone to. They referred Nayeli to LAFMC, which helped
her file a petition under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) and obtain permanent
residency, independent of her husband. Now divorced, Nayeli is studying English, working to
support herself and her young son, and slowly building a self-sufficient life in the U.S.

    On behalf of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago and women like
Nayeli, we thank you for taking on VAWA cases. By helping these courageous abuse survivors
obtain permanent residency in the U.S., you open the door to a safe and promising future for
them and their children. This manual contains all the information you need to file a VAWA
petition. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.

                              Legal Services Center for Immigrants
                      Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago
                             111 West Jackson Boulevard, Suite 300
                                  Chicago, Illinois 60604-3502
                                        (312) 341-1070

*This client‟s name and circumstances have been changed to protect her privacy

                                VAWA ELIGIBILITY OUTLINE


        If abuser was USC and dies, wife/child can still file within 2 years after his death

        If LPR spouse/parent was deported and lost LPR status because of domestic violence,
         wife/child can still file within 2 years after abuser‟s deportation

        If couple are divorced, wife/child can still file within 2 years after divorce became final,
         provided divorce was related to the abuse (but need not be sought or granted on grounds
         of physical or mental cruelty)


        Must have married intending to establish married life together, not for sole purpose of
         gaining legal immigration status in U.S.

        Must have terminated own prior marriage before marrying abusive spouse (or in Illinois,
         if divorced only after 2nd marriage, must have been before last abuse by current spouse

        If unknowingly married bigamist, can still file VAWA if marriage ceremony was actually
         performed, and wife explains why she believed abusive spouse was free to marry
         (“intended spouse” provision)


         Generous standard of proof: “any credible evidence”


        Must have lived with the abuser, but no minimum time requirement

        Joint residence could have been within or outside of the U.S.

        Can file VAWA petition from abroad only if show:
             was subjected to abuse in U.S.; or
             abuser is employee of U.S. government or a member of uniformed services


        Statutory requirement to show GMC, with emphasis on 3 years prior to filing
        CIS can also consider earlier facts (“residual” GMC)


The following outline is based on an article by Gail Pendleton, National Immigration Project of
the National Lawyers Guild, with help from Heather Maher, ABA Commission on Domestic
Violence (update of materials originally produced for ABA) (complete article available at under Immigrant Survivors)

Battered noncitizens are often stopped from accessing legal system by common barriers:

Lack of Knowledge and Misinformation about Legal System
        abuser misinforms victim re her right to
        protection under U.S. civil and criminal laws
        apply for immigration status in U.S.

          abuser says that because she is not U.S. citizen, he‟ll
          get custody of children under U.S. laws, or
          take children to a country where she can‟t go.

          legal system in victim‟s home country
          doesn‟t have laws, or
          doesn‟t enforce laws against domestic violence, or
          applies different evidentiary standards (e.g., oral testimony or testimony of women
           not admissible as evidence in court, or given half the weight of testimony of men).

          social mores in home country discourage women from using existing civil or criminal

Fear of Police and Judicial System
        in home country, police and judicial system
              o only assist those who have money or influence, or
              o are instruments of repression.

          in immigrant community, judicial system has reputation for applying laws against
           people who live in poor areas, people of color, or immigrants.

          immigrants may view court system as racist and/or anti-immigrant because of its
           composition or because of well-publicized events that raise this concern.

          immigrant communities will not trust a judicial system that they believe will turn
           them over to INS.

          allowing INS to attend court hearings undermines trust. Noncitizens will not avail
           themselves of civil and criminal protections if they believe INS will attend or may be

           called to hearings.

Fear of Deportation
   o Abusers often threaten to report victims to INS, whether for lacking legal immigration
       status, working without papers or with false or borrowed papers, or allegedly having
       married “only for papers” (marriage fraud). A victim may be unwilling to access judicial
       system or to speak frankly to judges if she believes that if she does, her abuser will report
       her to INS.

   o A victim may not access system because she fears that a judge or other court personnel
     will report her to INS.

   o A victim may fear deportation because her home countries do not have laws that will
     protect her from domestic violence.

Fear Abuser Will Be Deported
A victim may fear deportation of her abuser because:
   o abuser will take children abroad with him

   o abuser will stop making child support payments, causing her and her children financial

   o abuser will stop sending money back to their community and family in homeland

           o she or her children may lose status or become ineligible for immigration status if
             abuser is deported.
           o relatives and community members in U.S. or in home land may retaliate against
             her or her family
           o abuser may become more dangerous if he returns to U.S. after being deported

Language Barriers
   o Court personnel do not speak her language.

   o Inappropriate translators are used:       family member, those with political, cultural or
     gender differences

Cultural and Religious Barriers Cultural and Religious BarriersCultural and Religious
   o Victim‟s culture or religion may disapprove of challenging domestic violence or male

   o Victim‟s culture or religion may prohibit dissolving a marriage: divorce or even
     separation may violate social mores or bring shame to victim, her family, or her whole

   o Victim‟s family and community may ostracize or isolate her if she leaves marriage or
     makes public domestic violence.

   o Shelters and domestic violence programs do not provide culturally and linguistically
     appropriate services.

Economic Barriers Economic BarriersEconomic Barriers

       o Abuser controls all income in family

       o Non citizens must obtain work authorization from INS to work legally in U.S.

       o Non citizens may only be able to find low-paying jobs without child care

       o Public benefits administrators often are ignorant about laws authorizing non citizens
         to receive benefits or are antagonistic to non citizens.

Barriers to Participating in Prosecution

Prosecuting abusers of non citizens may have consequences that would not occur were victim a
U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Legitimate reasons for some non citizens not wanting
to cooperate in prosecuting their abusers include.

   o Abuser who faces trial might retaliate against victim, including reporting her to INS --
     even when she has no control over whether prosecution goes forward or not (“victimless
     crime” prosecution, where to spare the victim the ordeal of facing her abuser in court, the
     state proceeds based on the testimony of the police officer who responded to a 911 call,
     or on other evidence).

   o If a battered undocumented non citizen is reported to Immigration, she might be deported
     without ever being notified of her right to apply for status. Few immigration officials see
     educating non citizens about their rights to obtain immigration status as part of their job.

   o If battered non citizen is deported, she will lose custody of her children, who will be left
     in hands of their abusive parent.

   o If abuser himself is a non citizen, even if he is a legal resident, he may be deported if
     convicted (see fear of abuser's deportation above)

   o Victim‟s immigration status is often tied to abuser‟s status: if abuser is deported, his

      family members may automatically lose their immigration status too.

Overcoming Barriers

   o Work with battered non citizens to explore their choices and consequences of those

   o Help battered non citizens access services and immigration status they need to overcome

          o   physical and legal safety
          o   protection orders, shelter, long-term housing
          o   economic survival
          o   access to public benefits
          o   work authorization
          o   divorce, child custody, etc.
          o   obtain legal immigration status to prevent deportation


Are you married? Yes ____: Date of Marriage ______________             No _____

Are you divorced or is a divorce pending?   Yes ____     No ____
       If yes, date judgment entered:____________ or date divorce was filed:______________

Is your husband a U.S. Citizen?
       Yes _____: ____Born in U.S.        _____Naturalized
       No ____

Or is your husband a Lawful Permanent Resident? (Does he have a “green card”?)
       Yes ____ No ____

Has your husband abused you?       Yes ____ No ____
      If yes, do you have any police reports, medical records, orders of protection, or other
      materials to document the abuse? If yes, please list them below:

Do you already have a “green card”?       Yes ____       No ____

Do you have a work permit (EAD)? Yes ____         When does it expire?__________ No_____

Do you have an interview scheduled with USCIS (formerly called INS)?
      Yes ____      Date ________________     Address of interview: __________________
      No ____

Has your husband filed a petition for you with USCIS?
      Yes ____      Type of Petition and Date Filed__________________         No ____

When, where, and how (visa, without inspection, etc.) did you first enter the U.S.?

When, where, and how (visa, without inspection, etc.) did you last enter the U.S.?

Do you have any family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents?
If yes, please state their name, relationship to you, and whether they are a USC or LPR:

                                 VAWA INTERVIEW GUIDE



Other Names Used:


Telephone Numbers:

Date of Birth:

Place of Birth:

Have you ever been married before? ____Yes         ____No
      Are you divorced?              ____Yes       ____No
      If so, do you have a copy of the divorce decree?

Have you left the U.S. and returned since you first arrived? ____Yes         ____No
If so, please list the date you left, your reason for leaving, date you returned, and the place and
way that you returned:

Explain that whenever someone applies for legal residency, Immigration will get a report from
the FBI of every time they were fingerprinted. For this reason, it is very important that she tell
her advocate now about any prior contact with the police or Immigration, whether at the border,
or within the U.S.

Have you ever been stopped or arrested by Immigration?           If yes, when, where, and what

Have you ever been taken before an Immigration Judge? If yes, when, where, and how did the
case turn out?
        Were you ordered deported/removed?
        Or were you instead granted “voluntary departure,” i.e., the privilege of leaving the U.S.
        by a certain date?
Have you ever been arrested by the police?
If so, when, where and what happened?

Ask client to get a copy of her arrest and/or certified court disposition showing the ultimate
resolution of the case.

                          INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR SPOUSE

Complete Name:


Telephone Numbers:

Date of Birth:

Place of Birth:

Social Security Number:

Immigration Status:____USC: _____Born in U.S. _____Naturalized: A#:_________________
                  ____LPR: A#:____________________

Do you have any documents that can verify your husband‟s status? ____Yes ____No
(Birth certificate, naturalization certificate, passport, green card, INS/CIS documents)
If so, please list them here:

Was your husband married before he married you?            ____Yes ____No
      If so, was he divorced from his prior spouse(s)?     ____Yes ____No
      If yes, do you have a copy of the divorce decree(s)? ____Yes ____No

       Or do you know where and when he was divorced?


Number of Children: ____by abuser            ____by other relationship(s)

Name                  Date of Birth          Place of Birth          Father

Do any of your children have special needs (medical, educational)?
If so, please name child and describe:

                            INFORMATION ABOUT THE ABUSE

(Before asking these questions, please say something to the client like: “I‟m sure that it must be
very painful for you to remember all the things your husband has done to you, but I need to ask
you some personal questions so we can put your case together.”)

Have you ever been physically abused by your husband? Yes ____               No ____
If yes, when (or how often) and what happened?

____ pushed ____kicked         ____slapped ____punched ____scratched ____pulled hair

____used weapon         ____sexually assaulted

____other (describe):

Have you ever been mentally/emotionally abused by your husband? Yes ____             No ____
If yes, when (or how often/how many times), and what happened?

___social isolation (won‟t let her use the phone, talk to family or friends, leave the house alone)

___obsessiveness and possessiveness (jealousy, accusations of infidelity)

___threats to harm her, her children, her pets, or her personal property

___economic abuse (controls all money, prevents her from working or takes her money)

___degradation (name-calling, humiliates, constant criticism of her and/or her family)

___other (describe):

When was the first incidence of abuse?
Describe in detail:

What was the worst incidence of abuse?
Describe in detail:

If you have children, did your husband ever abuse you in front of them? If so, please explain:

Did he ever abuse the children? If so, please describe what happened:

Did you ever call the police or make a police report about the abuse? ____Yes     ____No
       If so, when and what happened or do you have a copy of the report?

Were you ever hospitalized because of the abuse? ____Yes        ____No
      If so, when, what happened and do you have records from the hospital?

Do any family or friends know about the abuse? ____Yes               ____No
If so, would they be willing to write a statement to support your case?
        Please list their names and relationship of each to you:

Have you ever sought help from a domestic violence or community organization? ____Yes

      If so, when and what happened?

Is there anything else you can think of that would help document the abuse you suffered?


             Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network

                  Immigrant Battered Women’s Committee

Suggested Documents in Support of I-360 VAWA Self-Petition
Proof of Self-Petitioner‟s Identity

_____ Driver‟s license or state ID, if any
_____ Unexpired foreign passport
_____       ID from country of origin (e.g.,
      Mexican matricula consular)
_____       Any INS/CIS documents
_____       INS/CIS file number (“A#”), if any

Proof of Abuse

_____         Victim‟s affidavit detailing the abuse
_____         Order of Protection (emergency and if
      possible, plenary, including underlying petition or affidavit)
_____         Detailed police report
_____         Medical records from treating injuries
_____         Photos of injuries
_____         Detailed letters from DV providers
_____         Letters from other counselors or
_____         Affidavits from abuse witnesses,
      including from children
_____         Divorce petition that discusses abuse
_____         Abuser‟s criminal records
_____         Certification of completion of abuser
_____         Photos, tapes, any evidence of abuse or
      property damage

Proof of Victim’s Good Moral Character

_____         Police clearance letter listing all names
      ever used and showing no convictions
_____         Fingerprint-based report (best from FBI, esp. if lived outside IL or ever arrested
      by INS/ICE, or from Ill. State Police
_____         If neither of above is obtainable, or if convicted of any crimes, letters/
      affidavits from witnesses attesting to VAWA petitioner‟s good moral character
_____         Certified court disposition for any criminal arrest, and explanation of

Proof of Abuser’s Status

_____        U.S. birth certificate
_____ U.S. passport or any immigration documents, especially if A# is shown
_____        If A# not known, date and place of birth and parents‟ names

Proof of Valid Marriage to Abuser

_____       Marriage certificate
_____       Abuser‟s divorce from prior spouse
_____       VAWA petitioner‟s divorce from prior spouse

Proof of Good Faith of Marriage and Past or Present Residence with Abuser

_____           Birth certificates of children of marriage
_____           Wedding pictures or later photos of couple together or with each other‟s relatives
        or friends
_____           Any document in married name
_____    Any document showing marital address
_____   Joint credit cards or in married name
_____           Lease or rent receipts from marital
        address(es), especially if joint
_____           Bills to either party at a marital address
_____           Joint bank statements or checks
_____           Jointly filed taxes, or W-2
_____           Proof of jointly owned property
_____           Life insurance policy naming spouse as
_____           Joint credit contracts of purchases made
        together (furniture or appliances)
_____           Joint correspondence, or envelope received by either at marital address
_____           Abuser‟s and self-petitioner‟s driver‟s
        license, state ID, consular ID, or other ID showing marital address
_____           Membership cards in married name
_____           Affidavits of witnesses to couple living
        together at marital address, e.g., landlord
_____           Children‟s school records listing spouse
_____           Letter from employer/business naming
        spouse or stating marital status

                                     Chicago Area Immigrant Battered Women’s Services
                                          City of Chicago Helpline 1-(877) 863-6338
                                                   24 Hours, All Languages

SERVICES                                                                     TO ENGLISH

Casa Aztlan                                                312-666-5508      Spanish
Life Span                                                  312-408-1210      Spanish,   Polish,   others     if
Mujeres Latinas en Accion                 312-738-5358     312-226-1544      Spanish

The Resurrection Project                                   312-666-1323      Spanish
Rainbow House – Little Village                             773-542-4175      Spanish
Casa Segura– Pilsen/Little Village                         312-925-5597      Spanish

North Side
Apna Ghar                                 773-334-4663     773-334-0173      Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi,Tamil,
                                                                             Marathi, Malayalan, Gujurati,
Asian Human Services                      773-728-2235     773-728-2235      Vietnamese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean,
                                                                             French,    Khmer,     Mandarin,
                                                                             Cantonese, Japanese
Centro Romero                                              773-508-5300      Spanish
Comprehensive Korean Self-Help                             773-545-8348      Korean
HAS                                                        773-292-4881      Spanish
Korean American Community                                  773-583-5501      Korean
Korean American Women in Need 773-583-0880                 773-583-1392      Korean
Life Span                                                  773-777-8068      Spanish, Polish,     others     if
Metro Family Services North 800-644-8991                   773-282-9535      Spanish, Polish
Near North Health Service Corp                             312-337-7616      Spanish
Polish American Association                                773-282-8206      Polish

South Asian Family Services                                773-761-5119      Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi
South East Asia Service Center –                           773-989-6927      Vietnamese, Cantonese, French
DV Program
Uptown Center Hull House                                   773-561-3500      Spanish

SERVICES                                                         TO ENGLISH

YMCA Korean Center                                773-561-2877   Korean

West Side
Casa Central                     773-276-1902     773-276-1902   Spanish
Chicago      Abused      Women‟s
  Walk-In Program                773-278-4566     773-489-9081   Spanish
 Hospital Crisis Intervention    312-433-2390     312-433-2390   Spanish & ASL (American Sign
 Project                                                         Language)

Greenhouse Shelter                 773-278-4566   773-278-4110   Spanish, Ukrainian, Polish, ASL,
                                                                 Farsi, French, Hindi

South Side
Arab American Action Network                      773-436-6060   Arabic
Family Rescue                                     773-375-6863   Spanish

Heartland Alliance                                773-847-4417   Spanish
 Women‟s Program

Lithuanian   Human      Services                  773-476-2655   Lithuanian
   Calumet Center                  800-644-8991   773-264-3010
    Midway Center                  800-644-8991   773-884-3310   Spanish, Arabic

South Suburban Family Shelter                     708-798-7737   Spanish

SERVICES                                                       TO ENGLISH


Life Span (Des Plaines)          847-824-4454   847-824-0382   Spanish, Polish

ChildServ/SIGA            Center 773-867-7381                  Spanish


Lifelink-Latino Family Services 630-521-8061                   Spanish

Sarah’s Inn (Oak Park, Cicero, 708-386-4225     708-386-3305   Spanish, Russian
Melrose Park)
Hamdard      Center  (DuPage 630-860-9122       630-860-2290   Hindi, Urdu, Gujurati, Punjabi,
County)                                                        Arabic, Persian, Telugu


South Suburban Family Shelter 708-798-7737                     Spanish
(Homewood, Calumet Park)

                                   Immigration Legal Services in Chicago

SERVICES IN CHICAGO                                            ENGLISH


Chicago Legal Clinic – Central           773-731-1762          Spanish, French

Chicago Volunteer Legal Services         312-332-1624          Spanish, others if arranged

Midwest Immigrant & Human Rights
Center, Heartland Alliance
   Loop Office                           312-660-1370 ext. 0   Spanish, others if arranged
   South Side Office                     312-660-1370 ext. 0   Spanish, others if arranged
Legal Assistance Foundation of           312-347-8374          Spanish
Metropolitan Chicago                     312-341-9617
(handles immigration cases for
people living anywhere in Illinois

Life Span Center for Legal Services      312-408-1210          Spanish, Polish, others if arranged

North Side
Asian Human Services                     773-728-2235          Vietnamese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, French,
                                                               Khmer, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese
Interfaith Refugee & Immigration 773-989-5647                  Spanish, many others
World Relief                     773-583-3010                  Spanish
South Side
Chicago Legal Clinic – South     773-731-1762                  Spanish, French, Italian
Latinos Progresando                      312-850-0572          Spanish
West Side
Centro Cristo Rey                        630-851-6807          Spanish    (Aurora)

                Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (LAF)
                          VAWA Pro Bono Project

                  Basic Procedures for Case Representation

1. Attorneys interested in representing VAWA clients must attend a training given by

2. Cases will be assigned by phone or through e-mail. The VAWA pro bono project
   coordinator will send out e-mails of VAWA cases as they become available.

3. If you would like to accept a case, send a reply e-mail or call the LAF project
   coordinator indicating which case you would like to take.

4. Once you are assigned a case, the file will be sent to you from LAF. You will be
   assigned an LAF attorney as your mentor for the case. Please call the pro bono
   coordinator with any questions or concerns; if need be, she will refer you to your

5. Within one week after you receive the case, call the client to let her know that you
   will be representing her and to set up an initial interview.

6. Please remember that you represent the client and are responsible for scheduling all
   interviews with her and providing an interpreter, if needed.

7. Call or e-mail the pro bono coordinator to let her know that you received the client‟s
   file and have scheduled an initial interview with the client. Thereafter, periodically
   call or e-mail the coordinator to update her on the progress of the case.

8. The I-360 should be filed within 2-3 months. Please consult with the pro bono
   coordinator if you require additional time.

9. When you are ready to file the I-360 packet, please send it to the pro bono
   coordinator so that your LAF mentor can review it and make any suggestions before
   you submit it. This step may be bypassed at the discretion of LAF once you have
   handled several VAWA cases.

10. If your client is eligible to file an adjustment application concurrently with her
    VAWA petition, it will be decided on your taking the case whether you will also
    prepare and file the adjustment, or whether LAF will prepare the adjustment on
    receipt of your draft VAWA packet.

11. When you send your final packet to CIS, send a copy simultaneously to the LAF
    project coordinator.

      12. Call or e-mail the pro bono coordinator as soon as you receive any correspondence
          from CIS on the I-360, including the Prima Facie Determination notice, requests for
          further evidence (“blue letters”), and the approval notice. Send copies of these
          notices to the pro bono coordinator.

      13. After approval of the client‟s VAWA petition, please send the client a closing letter
          informing her that her case has been returned to LAF, and return the original case file
          to LAF. (Unless you will be representing your client in filing an Adjustment of Status
          (green card) application; in this case, please consult with the pro bono coordinator.)

Contacts at LAF:

VAWA Pro Bono Project Coordinator (through August 2005):
Julie Dona
(312) 247-8324

VAWA Attorney:
Carol Waldman

                          THE AFFIDAVIT: PRACTICE TIPS

•      The affidavit, the most important part of the self-petition, is the woman‟s opportunity to
       explain her history and her reasons for self-petitioning. She can also use it to explain any
       lack of primary evidence, and provide details to help satisfy the VAWA requirements.

•      Acknowledging the difficulties that abused women may face in documenting their cases,
       Congress dictated that CIS follow a more generous standard of proof in adjudicating
       VAWA petitions than in other types of applications: “any credible evidence,” as set forth
       in INA § 204(a)(1)(J); 8 U.S.C. § 1154(a)(1)(J). Submit primary evidence whenever
       possible (e.g., immigration documents, marriage and birth certificates, divorce decrees,
       and other contemporaneously created documents that prove the abuser‟s immigration
       status, the legal validity of the marriage, the good faith of the marriage and joint
       residence, and the abuse). Where these are not available, CIS can still give significant
       weight to secondary evidence, including affidavits and other later-prepared documents.

•      All documents in support of a VAWA petition, including the affidavit, must either be in
       English, or be submitted in the original language and accompanied by a certified
       translation. As far as possible, the petitioner‟s affidavit should be in her own words, but
       she does not necessarily have to write out the final version herself. Committing her story
       to writing can be cathartic, but for some clients, it may be overwhelming, especially if
       their literacy is limited. You may wish to use your interview notes, facts from her
       documents, and any written statements she provides, e.g., her answers to the “extreme
       cruelty” questionnaire, to write out her story, then review it with her word for word to
       arrive at the final version. If an interpreter was used, conclude with: “This document has
       been read to me in my native language, and it is a true and accurate statement.”

•      The affidavit should be written in the first person. It should address, chronologically, the
       relevant points in the VAWA petitioner‟s life, and should also address each statutory
       requirement, establishing the self-petitioner‟s identity and good moral character, the legal
       validity of the marriage and her abuser‟s U.S. citizen or LPR status, her having married in
       good faith, her present or past residence with the abuser, and the abuse.

Questions to Ask When Preparing the Affidavit:

Note: Before meeting with your client, review the documents she has provided so far, and
LAFMC‟s computer summary of her case. The answers to many of the following questions may
already be there, so you can go over these with the client rather than asking her all over again.
You may want to write up a chronology so that you are familiar with key date -- her date of entry
to the U.S. (DOE), date of marriage (DOM), her children‟s dates of birth (DOB) – as well as who
is shown as father on their birth certificates, what marital addresses are shown, etc.

Story of the Marriage
•      Where and how did you and your husband meet?        Describe your early relationship.
•      When did you first start living together? What was your first address together?
•      When did you marry? Why? What were your expectations of the marriage? What did
       he tell you your married life would be like?
•      How many children do you have?

       •       Which are by your husband?
       •       Which are by other relationships?
•      If you and your husband have no children, what did your husband say before you were
       married about wanting children? After?
•      If you became pregnant, how did the marriage go during the pregnancy?
•      When did your relationship with your spouse change for the worse?
•      When did the abuse begin?
•      What was the worst incident of abuse?
•      Did your husband ever abuse the children, or abuse you in front of them?
•      Did you ever seek help from the police, or any domestic violence agencies, e.g., support
       groups, individual counseling or therapy, court advocacy?
•      If not, why not? What fears did you have that prevented you from seeking help?
•      Was there any substance abuse in the home?
•      Did you ever seek an order of protection, make any police reports, ask to have your
       husband arrested, or go to criminal court and keep pressing for him to be convicted?
•      Reassure client that there are many good reasons that abuse survivors decide not to go to
       court, but that it helps her case if she explains why in her affidavit (see outline of
       Barriers), then ask: If you did not press charges in criminal court, why not?
•      How did the abuse impact your life?
•      When did you separate, and what was your last address together?
•      Are you still married? Has a divorce been filed?

Immigration History:
•     When did you come to the U.S. for the very first time?
      •       What date (at least month and year), place (city and state), and manner of entry?
      •       “DOE, POE, and MOE”:          Date of Entry
                                            Place of Entry, and
                                            Manner of Entry, e.g., without inspection, on a
                                            tourist visa, on a student visa, etc.
•     Since that first time you came, have you ever left the U.S.?
•     Around what date did you leave? Why?
      •       Tip: To help your client establish dates, ask her if it was before or after major
              holidays like Easter, Christmas, or New Year‟s, the birth or birthday of a
              particular child, her own birthday or wedding anniversary, during summer
              vacation from school, during the cold part of the year, etc.
•     When was the next time you came? “DOE, POE, and MOE” as above
•     Have you left the U.S. since then? Why?               Around what date did you leave?
•     When, where, how, and why did you return? “DOE, POE, and MOE” of each entry
•     In what towns have you lived since coming to the U.S.? (in chronological order)

Key points to include in affidavit (to avoid a later CIS Request for Evidence on these):
•     Were you or your husband ever married before? If so, did you/he divorce that spouse?
•     Have you ever been arrested by Immigration or the police, aside from traffic violations?
•     Have you ever been in deportation or removal proceedings?
                                         Sample Affidavit

Tell what you saw or heard from your own direct experience, as if you were a news reporter. If
you saw or heard the abuse yourself, say so. If your friend or relative told you about what had
happened to her, say that, and if she seemed upset or sad when she told you, describe how she
looked or sounded. You can type your affidavit, write it on the computer, or write it by hand on
a blank page.

                      )                SS
COUNTY OF____________ )

                                 AFFIDAVIT OF _____________________________(your name)

       The undersigned, being duly sworn and upon oath, hereby deposes and states as follows:

1.    My name is __________________________, and my date of birth was
___________________.                           I            live              at
_______________________________________________________________________, and my
daytime phone is ____________________________.

2. I am a _____________________________________[if you have legal immigration status,
state it: for example, “permanent resident” or “U.S. citizen.” If you are undocumented or have
not yet applied for adjustment of status to permanent resident, you can just leave this paragraph

3. I am giving this statement letter in support of _____________________________. I have
known her since ______________ because ________________________________________.
(for example, we work(ed) together, are/were neighbors, attend the same church, are related,
and/or are friends).

4. [Describe whatever you have seen or heard that make you believe the person‟s spouse abused
her physically, verbally, emotionally, and/or economically: this might also include insults,
threats or coercion, extreme jealousy or possessiveness, degradation, and/or social isolation.
Give as much detail as you can remember, such as what you saw or heard, where it happened,
and approximately when (date or season, and time of day)].

5. Further affiant sayeth not.
                                             (your signature)
Subscribed and sworn to
before me this        day
of               , 200__.
Notary Public

Wait to sign the affidavit until you are at a notary public. Most currency exchanges have them.

Take your photo ID (driver‟s license, state ID, U.S. or foreign passport, or consular ID) with you,
and after you show your ID to the notary, sign the affidavit. Then the notary will sign, date, and
stamp the affidavit, and charge you about $1. If you can‟t get your affidavit notarized, end your
letter with the following phrase: “I declare under pain and penalty of perjury that I am the
undersigned person, and that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and

                                   Sample Affdavit (spanish)

Diga lo que Ud. vio o escuchó por su propia experiencia directa, como si fuera un periodista. Si
Ud. mismo/a directamente vio o escuchó el abuso, dígalo. Si su amiga o pariente le contó lo que
le había pasado, diga eso, y si le parecía alterada o triste al contárselo, descríbala. Puede escribir
su declaración a máqina, en la computadora, o a mano en otra hoja, de la siguiente manera:

                      )                SS
CONDADO DE __________ )

                       AFIDÁVIT DE ________________________(su nombre completo)

       La persona suscrita, bajo juramento solemne, con la presente declara lo siguiente:

1. Me llamo__________________________, y mi fecha de nacimiento es _________________.
Vivo en (direccion completa)___________________, y mi teléfono durante el día es (__ )_____.

2. Soy un _____________________________________[si Ud. tiene estatus legal de
inmigración, diga cuál es, por ejemplo, residente permanente, o ciudadano de los EE.UU. Si Ud.
es indocumentado o no ha aplicado todavía para ajuste de estado a residencia permanente, puede
pasar por alto este párrafo.]

3. Doy esta declaración en apoyo de _____________________________. La conozco desde
________________________________ porque ______________________________________.
(por ejemplo, trabajamos juntos, somos/eramos vecinos, asistimos a la misma iglesia, somos
parientes, y/o somos amigas).

4. [Describa cualquier incidente específico que Ud. ha visto o escuchado que le hace creer que el
esposo de esta persona la ha sujetado a abuso físico, verbal, emocional, y/o económico: podria
incluir insultos, amenazas o coerción, celos extremos o posesividad, degradación, y/o
aislamiento social. Dé tánto detalle de lo que recuerda como le sea posible: lo que Ud. vio o
escuchó, dónde ocurrió, y aproximadamente cuándo (fecha o temporada, y hora del día)].

5. Con esto termino mi declaración.
                                                     (su firma de Ud.)
Suscrita y jurada ante mí este
        día de             , 200__.
Notario Público

Espere a firmar su declaración hasta estar ante un notario público. Hay un notario público en
muchas casas de cambio. Debe presentarle su identificación con foto (licencia de manejar, ID
del estado, pasaporte estadounidense o extranjero, o identificación consular, como matrícula), y
después de mostrarselo al notario, firme su declaración. El notario también firmará y pondrá su
sello y la fecha, y le cobrará como $1. Si no puede llevar su declaración a un notario, termínela

con la siguiente frase: “Declaro bajo pena de perjurio que soy la persona suscrita, y que lo
antedicho es verdadero y correcto a lo mejor de mi leal saber y entender.”

                            COMPLETING THE I-360 FORM

                                        PRACTICE TIPS

Parts 1 and 2: Where a self-petitioner is represented by counsel, the VAWA Unit (“Vermont”)
will send correspondence regarding the case only to counsel, never directly to the client.
However, because some self-petitioners file pro se, the VAWA Unit conducts a “safe address”
review of every newly received I-360 to ensure that no CIS correspondence is sent to an address
where the abuser might intercept it.

If a self-petitioner resides with the abuser, is separated but might reconcile, or reports that her
mailbox is not secure, list her actual address in Part 2, but also provide a safe mailing address in
Part 1. This may be in care of you, a community organization that provides domestic violence
services (e.g., Centro Romero), or a trusted friend or relative.

Part 3, “Date of Arrival” (2nd to last line): Many CIS applications, such as the work permit
application (I-765) and adjustment application (I-485) ask for “date of last arrival” – but on the I-
360, it is best to list the date of first arrival to U.S. When the self-petitioner seeks to adjust to
permanent residence later on, listing this first entry date may help her overcome the
consequences of having departed the U.S. after 9/27/97 and returned.

Part 3, last line, “Current Nonimmigrant Status”:

       EWI                     entered without inspection

       visa overstay           entered with a visa (e.g., B-2 visitor or “tourist”, F-1 student, K-1
                               fiancée, J-1 exchange visitor, V visa for spouse or child of LPR
                               with I-130 filed before 12/21/00, etc.), but the period for which
                               admitted has now expired

       approved                spouse has already filed an I-130 for her, and she is waiting for her
       I-130                   priority date to become current

       pending I-485           has already filed an adjustment application at the local CIS office
       or adjustment           (most often a “one-stop” I-485 together with a U.S. citizen
       applicant               spouse‟s 130), and is awaiting the interview or the decision

       Lower right: Be certain to complete the “Attorney or Representative” box, list your state
       license number (ARDC number), and attach a G-28 signed by you and by the client.

Part 4, top line: Complete this even though your clients will be seeking to adjust status at their
local CIS district office rather than at the U.S. consulate abroad. In each country, a single
consulate or embassy handles applications for “immigrant visas,” e.g., in China, Beijing; in
India, Bombay (Mumbai); in Korea, Seoul; in Mexico, Ciudad Juarez; in Pakistan, Karachi; in
the Philippines, Manila; in Poland, Warsaw; in Russia, Moscow; in Ukraine, Kiev; in Vietnam,

Second line: Though it‟s very unlikely that CIS will ever need to send any correspondence to

your client abroad, ask if she has any relatives abroad she could get mail, and show the address

Fourth line: A self-petitioner who does not already have a work permit should almost always
submit an employment authorization application and photos together with her I-360. (By
contrast, in the sample I-360 at pages 5.10 - 5-13, the client is not filing a concurrent I-765
because she already has a (c)(9) work permit based on her pending adjustment application.)
Work permits are explained in detail in Part 9 of this manual.

Fifth and sixth lines: A self-petitioner‟s explanation of exclusion or deportation proceedings or
of having worked without authorization can be either provided on a separate sheet, or
incorporated in her affidavit. Work history need not be detailed; it can be simple, e.g., “Since I
had no work permit, the only work I could find was through a temporary agency. I had to call
each morning to see if they needed me that day.”

Seventh line: Part 10 of this manual discusses adjustment of status applications. Some VAWA
petitioners are already eligible to file an adjustment of status application with Vermont,
concurrently with their I-360. Others become eligible to apply for adjustment because their
priority date becomes current during the time that their VAWA is pending (awaiting
adjudication) in Vermont.

Part 7: At the bottom of this section, after checking off whether any of the self-petitioner‟s
children have filed separate petitions, be sure to request that any minor children of the spouse
who are not already USCs or LPRs be included on the self-petition as derivative beneficiaries
and be granted Deferred Action along with the principal. (In immigration law, the age of
majority is 21.)

Part 8: Note that the I-360 does ask for information on any children of the abusive spouse, even
those who are not children of the self-petitioner. As the self-petitioner is not likely to have
complete names and dates of birth, provide as much as possible, such as first names and
approximate age, if known. Sometimes, abuse includes the abuser favoring his children by prior
partners over those he has with the self-petitioner, or fathering a child outside their marriage.

Notes on Derivative Beneficiaries

•      In immigration law, children and spouses normally qualify as derivative beneficiaries
       based on a “downward relationship” between the principal beneficiary and the derivative
       (e.g., self-petitioning mother to child). To qualify as a derivative beneficiary, a minor
       child need only be the biological child of the principal; the child need not have any legal
       relationship to the abuser. This allows a self-petitioner to include all her unmarried
       children under 21 in her self-petition, even those who are not “stepchildren” under the
       Immigration Act because they were already 18 when she married the abuser.

•   Including minor children on the self-petition allows them to be granted Deferred Action
    along with the principal. Even if they are too young to work, they should apply for
    employment authorization and then a Social Security number. If their parent claims them
    on her tax return, she will then receive a larger tax refund, and this will remain the child‟s
    number for life. A child who has no need to renew her EAD should nevertheless request
    renewal of Deferred Action each year, along with her mother‟s own application to renew
    her work permit.

•   VAWA law on derivative beneficiaries differs from normal family-based immigration
    law in two ways. First, VAWA allows derivative status not only for minor children of
    LPRs, but also for “immediate relative” minor children (children and stepchildren of
    USCs). Second, though VAWA beneficiaries are free to divorce their abusers and
    remarry after approval of a self-petition, even before gaining legal residency, the new
    spouse does not qualify as a derivative beneficiary, and thus lacks the right to seek LPR
    status when the VAWA principal does.

•   For a child to qualify as a derivative beneficiary, the self-petition must list the child and
    include evidence of the child‟s relationship to the principal beneficiary, e.g., birth
    certificate showing the mother‟s name, or if not available, the child‟s baptismal records.

•   “Aging-out” occurs when a derivative beneficiary child turns 21 before becoming an
    LPR. This generally moves the child to visa category with a much longer backlog,
    meaning that the child must wait many more years than the parent before applying to
    adjust, or proceeding with an interview if an adjustment was filed before the child turned
    21. If a minor child and her parent both suffered abuse and the child is at risk of aging
    out, consider having the child file her own self-petition as an abused child. This
    “freezes” the child‟s age so that she will not “age out” on turning 21.

•   The Child Status Protection Act of 2002 prevents aging-out for children of USCs. There
    is a more complicated formula for children of LPRs: their age for purposes of
    determining their preference category is reduced by the length of time it took for a
    petition be approved. CIS has indicated that it expects the CSPA to cover principal and
    derivative beneficiaries of VAWA I-360s as well as beneficiaries of I-130 petitions.

                             Extreme Cruelty Questionnaire

If your marriage included mental/emotional abuse, the standard which non-battering abuse must
meet is that of extreme cruelty. A finding of extreme cruelty involves the examination of:

•        the dynamics of your relationship
•        your sense of well-being before the abuse
•        the specific acts during the period of abuse, and
•        your quality of life and ability to function after the abuse (the after-effects of the abuse).

The factors of extreme cruelty include social isolation, possessiveness, harassment, threats,
economic abuse, degradation. For each of the first six categories listed below, it is very helpful
if you can indicate (as best you can remember):

a.      how many times it happened
and for each incident, as best you can remember:
b.      what happened
c.      the approximate date and time of day it happened
d.      where it happened (e.g. at our apartment at [give the address], or at my mother‟s house),
e.      who else was present


1.       Coercion and threats: Did he ever:

coerce you to engage in illegal activity?
threaten to kill you?
threaten to get you deported?
threaten to take your children away from you?
        by getting them deported?
        by kidnapping them?
        or through legal processes, such as getting legal custody in court?
        or by calling the Department of Children and Family Services?
threaten to harm your children?
try to control you through your children?     How?
use the children to relay threatening messages to you?

intimidate you:
       by displaying a weapon?
       by smashing objects, especially objects with sentimental value for you?
       destroy property?
       use gestures that create fear?

2.       Verbal abuse:

What specific words, insults, or names did he use?
What tone of voice did he use?
How did each incident end?
Who left the room or residence?
Did things simply go back to “normal,” or did you have to apologize, appease him, or “walk on

3.     Emotional abuse: Did he ever:

call you names?
put down your home country and your family?
devalue what you do?
make you think you‟re crazy and no one will believe you?
convince you that no one other than he would ever want you?
minimize or deny that his behavior is or was abusive?
blame you for causing the violence or other abuse?

4.     Isolation from family and friends:

Did he ever:
refuse to let you speak on the phone, to family and friends here? or in your home country?
restrict your access to mail, friends and family?
refuse to let you learn English?
refuse to let you leave the home?
refuse to let you learn to drive?
refuse to let you work outside the home?
refuse to let you speak to people other than him or to people outside the family?

Explain what specific things your spouse did, and also indicate:
How long did it last?
What did you do in response?
How did you feel as a result of his actions?

5.     Possessiveness:

Was your spouse ever possessive or jealous?
In what way?
What did he do and say?
What did you do in response?
How did you feel as a result of his actions

6.     Economic abuse: Did he ever:

Limit your access to family financial resources (money)?
Make family financial decisions without you?
Control your paycheck?
Misuse family funds?
Steal money from you?
Make other major household decisions, such as moving the family, without letting you have any
       without asking for your input?
       or without paying any attention to your opinion?
Claim he was entitled to do these things because it was his privilege as the male in the family?

7.     Change in your quality of life:

What did you do to deal with the abuse?
How did your life change from the abuse?
How were you affected by the abuse?
What do you feel caused the changes?

In addition to your own detailed affidavit, you may submit psychological reports, police reports,
and/or notarized affidavits (sworn statements) from other persons which corroborate your claims.
The people who write and sign these affidavits (“affiants”) may be required to testify before a
U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services officer, and should therefore include their address
and phone number in their affidavits whenever possible. Your lawyer or advocate may be able
to help them write these statements, so tell him or her who you think might be willing to provide

In their statements, these witnesses should describe, with as much detail as they can, what they
heard with their own ears, or saw with their own eyes, as if they were a news reporter describing
a scene. This is especially important if they actually heard or saw any abuse as it was taking

If they learned of the physical or emotional abuse only afterwards, they should describe how they
learned of it, what you said to them and when, how you looked and sounded when you said it,
and what they saw you do.

If they saw any injuries that you received from your spouse, they should describe what they saw,
where, and when, and what you told them about how you got them.

                          Extreme Cruelty Questionnaire (Spanish)

Si su matrimonio incluyó abuso mental/emocional, el nivel al cual tiene que llegar abuso que no
fue físico es el de crueldad extremada. Un fallo de crueldad extremada requiere el examinar de:

•         la dinámica de su relación
•         su sentido de bienestar antes del abuso
•         los actas específicos durante el periodo de abuso, y
•         su calidad de vida y su poder funcionar después del abuso (los efectos o repercusiones del

Los factores de crueldad extremada incluyen a aislamiento social, posesividad, acoso u
hostigamiento, amenazas, abuso económico, y degradación. Para cada de las seis categorías
indicadas abajo, escriba (tanto como pueda):

a.      cuántas veces en total ocurrió,
y por cada vez:
b       qué es lo que pasó
c.      la fecha aproximada y tiempo del día que pasó, si se acuerda
d.      en dónde ocurrió (por ejemplo, en nuestro apartmento en {de la direccion], o en casa de
        mi madre, y
e.      quién más estaba presente


1.        Coerción y amenazas: En alguna ocasión el:

la forzó a hacer algo ilegal?
La amenazó con matarla?
La amenazó con deportación?
La amenazó con quitarle sus hijos?
        por hacer que ellos fueran deportados?
        por secuestrarlos?
        o usando trámites legales, como conseguir custodia legal en corte?
        o por hablar al Departamento de Servicios a Niños y Familias?
Amenazarla con hacerles daño a sus hijos?
Intentar controlarla a través de sus hijos?         Cómo?
Usar a los hijos para pasarle mensajes amenazantes?

Intimidarla por:
       mostrar un arma de fuego o de otro tipo?
       Quebrar objetos, especialmente objetos que le tienen valor sentimental?
       Destruir propiedad?
       Usar gestos que causan miedo?

2.        Abuso verbal:

Cuáles palabras, insultos, o nombres específicos usaba?
Qué tono de voz tenia al decir estas cosas?
Cómo se terminó cada incidente?
Quién salió del cuarto o del hogar?
Todo simplemente regresaba a “normal”, o tuvo Ud. que pedirle perdón, aplacarlo, o actuar con
mucho cuidado para no volver a tener problemas con el?

3.     Abuso emocional:

Su esposo la insultaba?
ofendía a su país natal o a su familia?
devaluaba lo que Ud. hace?
hacía que Ud. se pensara loca y que nadie le iba a creer?
la convenzó que nadie más que el la podría querer?
minimizaba o negaba que su conducta de el era o es abusiva?
le echaba la culpa por haber causado la violencia y otro abuso?

4.     Aislamiento de familia y amistades:

Su esposo le negaba permitirle hablar por teléfono, a familia y a amistades aquí?
o hablar a larga distancia, a su país natal?
Le limitaba acceso a correo, a amistades, o a familia?
No le permitía: estudiar inglés?
                salir de la casa sin el?
                aprender a manejar?
                trabajar fuera de la casa?
                Hablar con nadie más el y miembros de la familia?

Explique qué cosas específicas hizo o hacía su esposo, y también indique:
Por cuánto tiempo duró?
Qué hizo o hacía Ud. en reacción?
Cómo se sentía Ud. como resultado de las acciones de el?

5.     Posesividad:

Si su esposo era posesivo o celoso, cómo se notó?
Qué es lo que el hacía y decía?
Qué hizo o hacía Ud. en reacción?
Cómo se sentía Ud. como resultado de las acciones de el?
6.      Abuso económico:

Le limitaba acceso a los recursos económicos (dinero) de la familia?
Hacia decisiones familiares de tipo económico sin consultar con Ud.?
Le controlaba su pago?
Malversó fondos de la familia?
Le robaba su dinero?
Hacía otras decisiones mayores del hogar, como cambios de dirección, sin
       o sin ni consultar con Ud.?
       o sin poner ninguna atención a su opinión?

Decía que el tenía actuar así, como era su privilegio como el hombre de la familia?

7.     Cambios en la calidad de su vida:

Qué hacía Ud. para aguantar el abuso?
Cómo cambió su visa a causa del abuso?
Cómo fue afectada por el abuso?
Qué que los que Ud. cree que causó los cambios?

Como evidencia de lo arriba mencionado, se permite someter reportes psicológicos, reportes de
policía, y/o afidavits notarizadas (declaraciones juradas) de otras personas que corroboran o
confirman sus reclamos. Las personas que escriben y firman estas afidavits (“declarantes”) tal
vez sean requeridas atestiguar ante un oficial de Inmigración (USCIS), y por lo tanto deben
incluir su dirección y teléfono en su declaración. Su abogado/a o representante legal tal vez
pueda ayudarles a escribir estas declaraciones, y por eso, digale quién Ud. cree podría estar
dispuesto darle una.

Ellos deben de describir, con tánto detalle como sea posible, lo que oyeron o vieron por sí
mismo/a, como si fueran periodistas describiendo una escena. Esto es especialmente importante
si de veras directamente oyeron o vieron un incidente de abuso mientras ocurriera.

Si ellos supieron del abuso físico o emocional sólo después, deben describir cómo llegaron a
saber del abuso, que es lo que Ud. les dijo y cuándo, cuál era su aspecto de Ud. y cómo era su
voz al contárselo, y qué vieron a Ud. hacer.

Si vieron alguna lástima que Ud. recibió a manos de su esposo, deben describir lo que vieron y
cuándo, y qué es lo que Ud. les dijo sobre cómo recibió la lástima.

                       Sample Certificate of Translator’s Competence

                          CERTIFICATION BY TRANSLATOR

I,      _______________              , certify that I am fluent (conversant) in the English and
_______________             ___languages, and that the above/attached document is an accurate
translation of the attached document, entitled                               _______________
_______________          .

Signature:    _______________________________________________________

Typed name: _______________________________________________________
Firm:       _______________________________________________________
Address:    _______________________________________________________

Date:         ___________________

                          HOW TO GET PROOF OF OUTCOME
                            OF CRIMINAL ARRESTS FOR USCIS

Most types of immigration applications require you to submit to fingerprinting. If you have ever
had a non-traffic arrest and are self-petitioning under the Violence Against Women Act or
applying for legal permanent residency or U.S. citizenship, then U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services (USCIS) will probably learn of the arrest from your fingerprints.
However, it is your responsibility to provide USCIS with an official document or “disposition”
that shows how the case was resolved, certified by the clerk of the court. The information below
is only for criminal cases originating in Chicago or elsewhere in Cook County. If you were
arrested and/or prosecuted outside of Cook County, contact the clerk of court for that county


To get a “certified disposition” for a case from anywhere in Cook County, go to the clerk of the
court either in your municipal district, or in Room 1006 on the 10th floor of the Daley Center in
downtown Chicago. If you already know the case number(s), give it to the clerk at the counter at
the far end of the room; if not, ask the clerk to search using your name, date of birth, and the
approximate date of the arrest. The clerk will then print the disposition from the computer, and
certify it by affixing a raised seal. The fee for a certified disposition as of March 2005 is $9.

Your immigration advocate will probably also want to see a copy of any criminal complaints on
which you had to appear in court. To get copies, you must first order the actual file. Room 1006
has access only to misdemeanor files, and only for cases from within Chicago itself (the First
Municipal District), and only has same-day access to cases from the current year and the 3 prior
years. Earlier cases must be ordered from the warehouse, and take 3 to 5 business days to arrive.
When the file has arrived, you must pick it up from the long counter, then ask the clerk at the
shorter counter at the far end of the room to make you a photocopy of the complaint and arrest
report. The fee is $2 for the first page and $0.50 for each page thereafter.

Address:       Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County
               Daley Center, Room 1006
               118 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL

Telephone:                                            (312) 603-4641     Hours:
                                                             Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:00

If you need a felony complaint in Cook County, you must contact the clerk of court for felony
court, such as at 26th & California. If you need a felony or misdemeanor complaint from outside
Chicago, you must visit or call the clerk of that appropriate municipal district, e.g., 2nd = Skokie,
3rd = Rolling Meadows, 4th = Maywood, 5th = Bridgeview, 6th = Markham.


1.     Introduction

Your client is filing a self-petition with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS, the
new name of the Immigration & Naturalization Service, or INS) under the Violence Against
Women Act (VAWA). A VAWA self-petition allows the abused spouse or child of a legal
resident or U.S. citizen to start or continue on with the process of obtaining legal permanent
residency in the United States, taking control over the process out of the hands of the abuser.

Your letter is needed to help prove to CIS that your client was in fact physically abused and/or
subjected to extreme cruelty by her spouse.

       Please note: If a letter is needed for the case very soon and you do not have time to
       prepare a detailed one, ask your client or her immigration advocate if a very short, simple
       one would be enough for now, maybe just verifying having seen you for counseling
       related to the abuse in her marriage. Then provide a more detailed letter later.

2.     What to address

Your letter should be on agency letterhead, signed, and dated. If it is easy to notarize it, please
do so. (If you would like to see examples of what to write, ask your client‟s immigration
advocate to send you some sample letters.)

First, provide your credentials: briefly describe your experience with domestic violence: your
job title, how long you have worked with DV victims, etc.

Then, if this information is available, state:
        - how many individual and/or group sessions the client has attended with you or at your
        - the approximate duration of each session
        - the specific dates or inclusive dates of these sessions
        - the topics discussed:
                - Describe, in detail if possible, what the client told you about the domestic
                    violence (physical violence and/or extreme cruelty).
                - If possible, explain why what she told you was credible to you, given your
                    experience of working with survivors of domestic abuse (you may want to
                    describe her appearance or emotional affect in speaking of the abuse).
                - Explain why what she told you IS domestic violence; and
                - Provide
                        - an evaluation of her progress, and
                        - an opinion on future counseling needs.

3.       Extreme mental cruelty

Where there is little or no proof of any physical violence, then the client may need to prove that
she was subjected to extreme cruelty. In deciding whether abuse constituted extreme cruelty,
CIS wants to know how the abuser‟s conduct impacted on the self-petitioner‟s qualify of life. To
make a finding of extreme mental cruelty, CIS needs have a sense of:

     o the dynamics of the relationship
     o the client‟s sense of well-being before the abuse
     o what things she did to deal with the abuse as it was happening
     o how her life changed as a result of the abuse: compare her quality of life and ability to
       function before, and afterwards
     o what she feels caused the changes

Please read through the following outline and mention at least the major aspects of the non-
physical abuse that your client suffered, stating where possible both what she said the abuser did,
and how she felt or was affected as a result:

The factors of extreme cruelty include:

       o for her to engage in illegal activity
       o trying to control her through her children (state how)
       o using the children to relay threatening messages to her

Threats to:
       o kill her or hurt her
       o get her deported
       o harm her children
       o take her children away from her
              o by getting them deported
              o by kidnapping them or
              o through legal processes, such as:
                       getting legal custody in court
                       calling the Department of Children and Family Services against the
       o by displaying a weapon
       o by smashing objects, especially objects with sentimental value for her
       o by destroying property
       o by using gestures that create fear

Verbal and emotional abuse and degradation:
       o calling her names
       o putting down her home country and family
       o devaluing what she does
       o   telling client she‟s crazy and no one will believe her
       o   convincing her that no one other than he would ever want her
       o   minimizing or denying that his behavior is or was abusive
       o   blaming her for causing his violence or other abuse

Isolation from family, friends, and society:
        refusing to let her
               o speak on the phone, to family and friends here or in her home country
               o speak to neighbors, relatives, co-workers, friends, or other people outside the
               o visit her friends and family
               o have access to the mail
               o learn English
               o learn to drive
               o work outside the home
               o leave the home unaccompanied, or at all

Extreme jealousy or possessiveness:
      interrogating her about things like:
          o where she went, why, and with whom, if she goes out at all, or if she gets back
          o phone calls while he was out
          o checking her whereabouts by calling repeatedly
          o having a relative check on her or stay with her

Economic abuse:
         o limiting her access to money and to family financial resources
         o controlling her paycheck
         o misusing family funds
         o stealing money from her
         o making family financial decisions and other major household decisions, such as
             moving, without consulting her
                o or without caring about her opinion
                        claiming “male privilege” to do these things

4.     Further evidence of abuse

Further evidence: In addition to her own detailed affidavit, your client may submit:
           o psychological reports or statements from counselors or social workers
           o detailed police reports or criminal complaints
           o notarized affidavits (sworn statements) from other persons corroborating her

       Written statements have the most value as evidence if the people writing and signing
       them state that they are willing to testify before an officer of the U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services (formerly INS), and include their address and daytime phone.

Your client‟s lawyer or immigration advocate may be able to help them write these
statements, so your client should tell him or her who she thinks might be willing to
provide one. Your advocate may be able to send a guide for these people to use in
writing their statements.

These statements should describe, with as much detail as they can, what they heard with
their own ears, or saw with their own eyes, as if they were news reporters describing a
scene. This is especially important if they actually heard or saw any abuse as it was
taking place.

If they learned of the physical or emotional abuse only afterwards, they should describe
how they learned of it, what she said to them, approximately when or under what
circumstances, how she looked and sounded at the time, and what they saw her do.

If they saw any injuries that she received from her spouse, they should describe what they
saw, where, and when, and what she told them about how she got them.


•      File all materials related to VAWA (I-360 self-petitions, responses to RFEs, and VAWA-
       based applications for employment authorization), by U.S. mail or courier service, to:

Attn: VAWA Unit
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services
Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden St.
St. Albans, VT 05479-0001

•      To doubly ensure that the self-petition reaches the VAWA Unit, write “VAWA” on the
       mailing envelope in large letters or in red.

•      If the self-petitioner already has a priority date (PD) through an I-130 petition by her
       spouse, highlight this in a cover letter, requesting that her PD be preserved. In your
       support documents to the I-360, include a copy of an I-130 approval notice or receipt
       wherever possible, correspondence from the National Visa Center, or from the U.S.
       Department of State Immigrant Visa Section.

•      Organize your index to supporting documents using the five VAWA requirements. One
       way that fits together nicely is: A) her identity, immigration history (admission stamps in
       her passport and other immigration documents, if any), and good moral character; B)
       her legally valid marriage to the abuser (termination of any prior marriages), and his
       immigration status; C) good faith of marriage and joint residence; and D) abuse.

•      As of March 2005, filing fees are $185 for the I-360 and $175 for the I-765 (work permit
       application). A single money order, payable to “Department of Homeland Security,” can
       be submitted – but wherever possible, seek fee waivers instead.

•      If the self-petitioner is requesting a fee waiver, highlight this in the caption of your cover
       letter, and also write “FEE WAIVER ATTACHED” at the top of each application (I-360,
       I-765, and where applicable, I-485).

•      On top of the I-360, attach a fee waiver application signed by the self-petitioner, showing
       number and age of dependent children, and declaring under penalty of perjury her
       income, expenses, and assets, if any. Important: Attach copies of correspondence or
       other documents showing (a) receipt of public benefits in the last 6 months by her
       household members: food stamps and LINK card, children‟s KidCare or Medicaid card,
       her medical card during pregnancy, welfare (TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy
       Families),WIC coupons (supplemental food for Women, Infants, and Children), or school
       lunch program; or if no benefits, document (b) her income and basic expenses (rent, etc.).

•      When filing a concurrent adjustment application, attach a separate photocopy of the
       complete fee waiver application to the I-485, with copies of children‟s birth certificates.
                                Sample Fee Waiver Request


       The undersigned, under pain and penalty of perjury, hereby states as follows:

        1. I am                                . I cannot afford to pay the filing fee for my self-
petition as an abused spouse, and my application for employment authorization, and am
providing this information in support of my request for a fee waiver.

       2. I live at________________________________________with my dependent children
who are __________________________________years old.

       3. My household s present economic condition is:

               MONTHLY INCOME: (net)

               Earnings:      Self:                         $______
                              Spouse (child support)        _______
               Other:         _______________ _ :           _______
                                                _    :

               TOTAL:                                       $    ___

               MONTHLY EXPENSES:

                Rent                                        $______
                Gas for cooking/heating                     _______
                Electricity                                 _______
                Telephone                                   _______
                Water                                       _______
                Food                                        _______
                Clothing and shoes                          _______
                Medical and dental                          _______
                Non-auto insurance                          _______
                Car payments and insurance                  _______
                Gasoline                                    _______
                Other transportation                        _______
                Child care                                  _______
                Miscellaneous:                              _______

               TOTAL:                                     $______
               ASSETS other than furniture, clothing, and other personal effects and necessities
               for myself and my family:

                              :                            $______
                              :                            _
                              :                            _______

              TOTAL:                                       $______


                              :                            $______
                              :                            _______
                              :                            _______

              TOTAL:                                       $______

       4. I swear under oath and under penalty of perjury that the foregoing has been translated
to me into Spanish, and that it truthfully states my household s financial condition. Juro bajo
pena de perjurio que lo antedicho me ha sido traducido al español, y que verdaderamente indica
la condición económica de mi hogar.


                           CIS RESPONSES: PRACTICE TIPS

•   Within two to three weeks after the I-360 arrives in Vermont, the VAWA Unit normally
    issues (a) an I-360 receipt, and under separate cover a week later, (b) a blue cover sheet
    for submitting any further evidence not specifically requested, and (c) a Prima Facie
    Determination (PFD). The PFD indicates that the VAWA petitioner has asserted facts in
    her affidavit which, if proven, would lead to approval of the petition‟s approval. The
    PFD‟s purpose is to help her and her non-U.S. citizen children access certain public
    benefits. Under a special “abused noncitizen” provision of the state public aid policy, she
    must be very low-income, have at least one child under age 18 at home, already live apart
    from the abuser or plan to within a month of receiving public benefits, and be able to
    show a connection between the abuse and the need for benefits. Explain to your client
    that under a special immigration rule for VAWAs, none of the public benefits she and her
    children get will prejudice their green card applications later on, and give her the original
    PFD to show at her local Illinois Department of Human Services office. If she lives in
    Cook County, tell her that if she has any trouble getting these benefits, she should
    immediately call LAFMC‟s free bilingual Public Benefits Hotline, 1-888-893-5327, and
    give her a copy of the Hotline flier at pages 9.18 – 9.19). This way, LAFMC may be able
    to intervene to ensure that the benefits are properly granted. For more on benefits, see
    pages 9.15 – 9.17.

•   The I-360 receipt assigns the VAWA petitioner an A-number, if she does not already
    have one. This number will be the unique identifier for her entire immigration file and
    for her permanent resident card (“green card”) when she obtains LPR status.

•   Using the receipt number, you can check status online for most applications and petitions
    filed with CIS, including VAWA petitions and EAD applications. (All personal
    identifying information – applicant‟s name, A-number, address, and so forth – remains
    confidential.) Go to the USCIS website, In the column on the left, click
    on “Immigration Services and Benefits Programs,” “National Customer Service Center,”
    “Case Status Online,” and the word “online.” The system shows the most recent action
    on most CIS Forms, including the I-130, I-360, I-765, and I-485: date of receipt, date
    any Request for Evidence was sent, date a response was received, and date of approval.

•   For trouble-shooting, leave a message on the VAWA Advocates’ Help-line, (802) 527-
    4888. VAWA Unit staff usually respond within 24 hours. To maintain the help-line‟s
    efficiency, this number is for use by advocates only, not by VAWA petitioners
    themselves. Before calling, always check Case Status Online, and in your message,
    mention what you found. (You can skip the long recorded message by hitting the # key.)

•   If Vermont does not decide the VAWA petition before the PFD expires, it usually issues
    a notice extending the PFD for 6 months. If the extension has not arrived but is needed
    for initial public benefits or for continuation of benefits, call the Advocates‟ Help-line
    and ask that one be faxed to you. The original will then be mailed.

•   At present (3/05), Vermont usually sends a Notice of Action about 8 months after filing,

    either approving the VAWA petition, or requesting additional evidence. If you or your
    client obtain further evidence at any point during this initial period, such as her FBI
    fingerprint report, proof of termination of her or the abuser‟s prior marriage, a more
    detailed counselor letter, a plenary order of protection, or proof that the abuser has been
    convicted of domestic battery, send it to the VAWA Unit with the blue cover sheet on

•   If Vermont does send a Request for Evidence (RFE, or “blue letter”), it will set a 60-day
    deadline for your further evidence to arrive at the VAWA Unit. If you need more time as
    the deadline approaches, submit a written request for an extension; putting the original
    RFE on top, and make sure your request arrives at Vermont by the original due date. The
    VAWA Unit will send a notice granting another 60 days.

•   Once all your additional evidence is ready to send, put the original RFE or extension
    grant on top, or a copy of the RFE if you requested more time but have not yet a
    response. It may be helpful to add a letter listing the new documents and explaining
    which requirement(s) they meet.

                                APPROVAL NOTICES

•   The I-360 approval notice will show the priority date (either be the date the I-360 was
    received at Vermont, or if requested, a date an I-130 by the LPR spouse was received).
    VAWAs get to use this earlier PD even if the abuser withdraws the petition or dies, or the
    couple divorce.

•   If any noncitizen children were listed on the VAWA petition, Vermont should also issue
    a Supplemental Notice of Dependent Children listing them as derivative beneficiaries.

•   Notice of Deferred Action: Deferred Action is a formal decision that, given the approved
    petitioner‟s status as an abused immigrant, DHS will not take any steps to deport her for
    lack of papers. Deferred Action allows her to live legally in the U.S. until she can apply
    for adjustment to permanent residency, and entitles her to a work permit (Employment
    Authorization Document, or EAD), provided she shows an economic necessity to work.

•   The initial Deferred Action grant is for 15 months. An application to renew an EAD is
    considered to be a request to renew Deferred Action for another year. If no new EAD is
    needed, Deferred Action alone can be renewed by written request.

•   Once a VAWA I-360 petition is approved, not only can the petitioner/beneficiary have
    Deferred Action and an EAD until her priority date becomes current, she is also free to
    remarry and still use her VAWA to adjust later on. By contrast, when an I-130 petition
    by an LPR spouse is approved, the beneficiary does not get Deferred Action, is not
    entitled to a work permit while she waits for her priority date to become current, and
    cannot divorce (let alone remarry) without terminating her rights under the I-130.
                                  ELIGIBILITY FOR
                          EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION

When CIS approves a VAWA petition, it an approval notice and an Initial Notice of Deferred
Action. Deferred Action is a formal decision by DHS not to initiate removal proceedings,
inasmuch as approved VAWA petitioners are a very low priority for removal. Persons with
Deferred Action qualify for work permits on showing an economic necessity to work. Each
year, a timely application to extend the work permit is treated as a request to extend Deferred
Action, allowing the VAWA petitioner to keep renewing both until she becomes an LPR.

For a VAWA petitioner, the ability to obtain employment authorization and then maintain it
without any gaps can be vital to her survival. She may have become the sole support of young
children, and an expired work permit can mean losing her job. The need to keep an EAD current
is especially important to those whose abusive husbands are or were lawful permanent residents,
since they may have to wait as much as ten years before adjusting to LPR status through VAWA.

CIS issues work authorization as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that bears the
applicant‟s, A-number, birth date, photograph, and signature, and shows the “category” or
subsection of the CIS regulation on which that particular EAD is based. 8 CFR § 274a.12
defines which immigrants are entitled to work in the U.S. See pages 9.4 – 9.7. Your client
should take her initial EAD, with her original birth certificate (and if still using her married
name, her marriage certificate) to her local Social Security office and apply for a Social Security
number. Once the SS card comes (2 –3 weeks,), she can apply for a state ID and driver‟s license.


                   Approved VAWA: Deferred Action, Category (c)(14):

If the VAWA petitioner is not yet eligible to adjust status because her husband is or was an LPR
and her priority date (if any) is not current, it is best to submit an EAD application (CIS Form I-
765) to the VAWA Unit along with the VAWA petition. The VAWA Unit will hold the I-765
until approving the VAWA petition and granting Deferred Action, then issue the EAD.

On the I-765, at Question 16 (“Category”), write “(c)(14).” This is for 8 CFR § 274a.12(c)(14),
the Deferred Action subsection. If a fee waiver is sought for the I-765, it will also meet the
economic necessity requirement.

To seek or renew a (c)(14) EAD, send, Attn: VAWA Unit:

     either a $175 money order, payable to “Department of Homeland Security,” AND proof
      of economic necessity (affidavit of dependents, income, assets, and expenses)
     OR fee waiver request whenever possible, documented as for I-360, with FEE WAIVER
      REQUESTED written across top of I-765
     I-765 signed by the client, and by you as the preparer
     photocopy of unexpired, government-issued photo ID (driver‟s license, state ID, consular
      ID (e.g., Mexican matrícula consular), or unexpired foreign passport
     photocopy of most recent EAD, if any

     two passport photographs (not discontinued ¾ profile “green-card” type)

Note: In December 2004, CIS announced that many types of applications must now be sent to a
new P.O. Box, the “Chicago Lockbox Facility” (see below). These include I-765s based on
Deferred Action, category (c)(14). CIS subsequently amended its regulations to clarify that if a
(c)(14) I-765 (Deferred Action) is based on an approved VAWA, it does not fall under the new
procedure, and should not be sent to the Chicago lockbox.

Pending Adjustment Application (I-485): Category (c)(9):

I-485 already pending:
For VAWA petitioners who already have a pending adjustment application, use category
“(c)(9).” One way to renew a (c)(9) EAD is by mailing the I-765 to the new “Chicago
lockbox”: U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, P.O. Box 805887, Chicago, IL
60680-4120. When the applicant gets her I-765 receipt in the mail, she must call USCIS
Customer Service to schedule her “biometrics appointment” at a USCIS Application Support
Center. There, her photo will be taken and she will sign the card that will become her EAD, and
affix a thumbprint. The EAD can then take several more months to arrive in the mail.

A quicker option for renewing a (c)(9) EAD is to do it all by mail through Vermont. This is
possible because the VAWA Unit requests any prior files of the petitioner for review before it
can decide the I-360. Before sending a (c)(9) I-765 to Vermont, call the VAWA Advocates‟
Help-line at (802) 427-5888 to confirm that the adjustment file has arrived.

I-485 will be soon be pending because it will be filed concurrently with VAWA:
If an adjustment application is not yet on file, but either (a) the VAWA petitioner’s
husband is a USC, or (b) he is an LPR and her priority date is current, she is immediately
eligible to apply to adjust status. Sending her I-485 to Vermont while the VAWA is
pending, including a (c)(9)
I-765 and 4 photos, has several advantages: she can seek a fee waiver on all three applications
(saving $675), her adjustment process is more efficient, and she gets her EAD much sooner than
by waiting for her VAWA to be approved. Applications for EADs in category (c)(9) are
adjudicated by the general VSC, not the VAWA Unit; the EAD arrives in two to four months.

To seek or renew an adjustment-based EAD, send:
     either a $175 money order (3/05), payable to “Department of Homeland Security”
     OR whenever possible, fee waiver request, documented as for an I-360 and with FEE
       WAIVER REQUESTED written across top of I-765
     I-765 signed by the client, and by you as the preparer
     photocopy of an unexpired, government-issued photo ID
     photocopy of most recent EAD, if any
     photocopy of I-485 fee receipt, if any (issued by INS or CIS cashier, or I-797 receipt
       letter from USCIS National Benefits Center or Vermont Service Center)
     two passport photographs (not discontinued ¾ profile “green-card” type)

Once a VAWA petition is on file, needy abuse survivors may qualify for public benefits that can
help them escape from the abusive situation, or make ends meet when their abuser will not
provide for food, clothing, health insurance, and other basic needs.

To qualify, immigrant abuse survivors must be able to show a connection between the abuse and
the need for benefits. If they have very low income, at least one child under 18 at home, and are
recently separated or plan to separate soon, they may be able to receive medical cards and
welfare money (TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Their U.S. citizen children
in low-income homes already qualify for food stamps (the LINK card), and under the special
“abused noncitizen” provision of the Illinois Department of Human Services, noncitizen children
of abuse survivors can also receive food stamps, and abused spouses can receive a medical card
of their own.

Many immigrants who hope to become permanent residents someday are afraid to seek
any public benefit for themselves or for their U.S. citizen children. They fear that receipt
of food stamps, welfare money, or medical care -- even labor and delivery or emergency
medical services -- will count against them when they apply for their green cards, and
might cause their immigration cases to be denied.

This fear is largely unfounded. It is true that the public charge ground of inadmissibility at INA
§ 212(a)(4) requires intending immigrants to show they are “not likely to become a public
charge,” and that the application for adjustment of status includes a question asking whether the
he or she has ever received any public assistance, or is likely to in the future. However, as
clarified by INS regulation in 1999, legal residency applications are never prejudiced by an
intending immigrant or her household member‟s receipt of in-kind benefits, such as food
stamps, WIC coupons, medical card, reduced-rate school lunch, etc. The only two types of
public assistance that can affect an adjustment application are means-tested cash benefits, such
as TANF and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI, and long-term institutional
care. See INS‟s 10/99 “Quick Guide to „Public Charge‟ and Receipt of Public Benefits” at pages
9.16 – 9.17.

In addition, the immigration statute specifically exempts VAWA beneficiaries from having cash
benefits like TANF taken into consideration with regard to public charge.

Please refer VAWA petitioners who live in Cook County and have questions or problems getting
these benefits to the free, bilingual Public Benefits Hotline of the Legal Assistance Foundation
of Metropolitan Chicago, Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at (888) 893-5327. The Hotline‟s
flier in English and Spanish is at pages 9.18 – 9.19.

Food stamps and WIC coupons are particularly underused in the immigrant community.
Whether a battered immigrant is contemplating leaving her abuser, or is already struggling to
raise her children on her own with no child support, these benefits can provide desperately
needed resources, and help her find a family life free of violence.


Winning approval of a VAWA petition does not yet mean that your client has obtained legal
permanent residency. An approved I-360 petition simply gives her the right to take the next step:
applying for LPR status. In order to become an LPR, she must apply for “adjustment of status”
to lawful permanent residency with USCIS in the U.S., or for an “immigrant visa” at a U.S.
consulate abroad. (Since nearly all of your clients will be applying from within the U.S., only
the procedures for adjustment of status are covered below.)

To obtain legal residency, adjustment applicants must both be legally “admissible” to the U.S.,
and be accorded a favorable exercise of discretion by CIS. Please refer to the following section
on admissibility to ensure that your client will not be barred from adjusting status.

A complete VAWA-based adjustment of status application consists of:

1.     Copy of I-360 approval notice (I-797 Notice of Action)

2.     G-28 Notice of Entry of Appearance, if represented, signed by client and counsel

3.     Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

4.     Form G-325 Biographic Information (only if age 14 years or older)

5.     Form I-693 Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status and
       vaccination supplement (Supplemental Form to OF-157), completed by a physician
       designated as a “civil surgeon” by CIS. The Civil Surgeons Locator on the USCIS
       website,, can be used to find the nearest ones by zipcode. Under Hot
       Topics, go to How Do I? (FAQs), then Civil Surgeon or Medical Examination.

6.     Filing fee (as of 3/05, $315 if age 14 or older, $215 if under 14; by money order payable
       to “Department of Homeland Security”), or Fee Waiver Request

7.     Fingerprint fee (only if age 14 years or older) (as of 3/05, $70 -- cannot be waived)

8.     Two passport-type color photographs (not the discontinued ¾-profile “green card” type)

9.     If applicant ever entered the U.S. legally, copy of passport, admission stamps, visa, I-94

10.    Copy of unexpired government-issued photo ID (passport, consular or state ID, or
       driver‟s license)

11.    Copy of birth certificate (with certified translation)

12.    Copy of marriage certificate (with certified translation)

13.    Proof of employment, tax returns, or other proof of economic independence

14.    Application for Waiver of Inadmissibility Grounds (if necessary)

                                    PROCEDURAL ISSUES

Abuser = U.S. Citizen (USC)

If your client‟s husband is or was a USC, she is an “immediate relative” and is thus immediately
eligible to apply for adjustment to permanent residence. She is not subject to the preference
categories and visa backlogs, so her case is not governed by priority dates. To save time and
obtain an EAD much quicker than through VAWA alone, she may submit her adjustment
application and EAD application to Vermont together with her VAWA petition. In two to four
months, Vermont will issue an EAD under Category (c)(9) (pending adjustment application) and
then forward the I-485 to the Chicago district office of CIS. Chicago will then schedule her for
fingerprinting. The published CIS policy is to hold adjustment cases in abeyance, on request, so
long as a VAWA petition is filed before the adjustment application is adjudicated. If an
adjustment interview is scheduled too soon, attend it with the client, offer a copy of the I-360
receipt, and ask that the adjustment application be held in abeyance until after the VAWA is

Abuser = Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), But No Petition Filed

If your client‟s husband is or was an LPR, she is a “second-preference” immigrant, meaning she
may have to wait up to eight years before she can apply to adjust her status. If her husband never
filed any I-130 on her behalf, her priority date (PD) or “place in line” will be the date her I-360
arrived in Vermont.

To find out which priority date holders are now eligible to apply for LPR status, consult the
monthly Visa Bulletin published by the U.S. Department of State. You can find this at In the column on the left, go to Immigration Services and Benefits Programs,
and in the middle of the page, the link to Visa Bulletin. Once on the USDOS website, click on
Current Bulletin. The coming month‟s bulletin is published around the 20th of each month.

Look at the family “second-preference” category (spouses and minor unmarried children of
LPRs, or F2A), in the column showing your client‟s country of citizenship (the first column,
unless she is from Mexico, India, or the Philippines). When the priority date on the present
month‟s Visa Bulletin for family second-preference is more recent than your client‟s priority
date, her priority date has “become current,” meaning she is now eligible to apply to adjust her

If your client‟s priority date is current and her VAWA petition is already approved, she mails her

adjustment packet to a special post office box for the USCIS National Benefits Center; the NBC
will review the packet for completeness and forward to her local CIS district office. If her
priority date becomes current before her VAWA is filed, or before it is approved, she can file her
adjustment to the VAWA Unit, with the advantage of getting an EAD much sooner than through
VAWA alone.

Abuser = LPR and Petition Already Filed

If your client‟s LPR spouse already filed an I-130 for her, she may be able to retain the earlier
priority date of that petition, and save years of waiting to apply for permanent residency. Under
the special rules for VAWAs, she can use the I-130 priority date even if her husband withdraws
the petition, the couple divorces, or he dies.

Abuser = USC or LPR, and Adjustment Application is Pending

If your client has already applied for adjustment and the application has not been denied, you
should send a status inquiry to Customer Service of Chicago CIS to advise them that she will
soon be filing a VAWA petition, and requesting that her adjustment application be held in
abeyance until the I-360 is adjudicated. Once an interview is set, the national policy is to allow
only 30 days after the interview to get a VAWA petition on file. Even if you can only file a
skeletal petition with a very short and simple affidavit, this will be enough to protect your client
under the abeyance policy. As soon as you get the I-360 receipt, file a second abeyance request
status inquiry with a copy of the receipt attached. Then, when the I-360 is approved, submit a
status inquiry with a copy of the approval notice attached, asking that your client be re-
fingerprinted if needed, and that the case be set for interview. This way, the client can substitute
her VAWA approval notice for the I-130 filed by her spouse, and can adjust status using her
pending adjustment application instead of having to file a new one.

                                   ADMISSIBILITY ISSUES

In order to be granted lawful permanent residency, a person must be “admissible” to the U.S.
The statutory inadmissibility grounds are found at INA § 212(a) (8 USC § 1182). Both general
and VAWA-specific waivers are available for some of the grounds.

The most relevant grounds of inadmissibility for VAWA petitioners are:

Health-Related Grounds (communicable diseases, lack of vaccination records, threatening
illnesses, drug abuser/addict)

•      Special waiver available for VAWA petitioners for communicable diseases.
       INA § 212(g)(1)(C)

•      General waiver available for lack of vaccination records. INA § 212(g)(2)
•      General waiver available for threatening illnesses. INA § 212(g)(3)

Criminal and Related Grounds (criminal convictions)

•      Special waiver available for VAWA petitioners for minor crimes
       INA § 212(h)(1)(C), as amended by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection
       Act (“VTVPA”) § 1505(e)
•      Special waiver for VAWA petitioners with domestic violence convictions.
       INA § 237(a)(7)(A), as enacted by VTVPA § 1505(b)

Security and Related Grounds (terrorist activity, membership in a totalitarian party)

Public Charge

•      Unlike other family-based adjustment applicants, VAWA petitioners are not required to
       file an Affidavit of Support (I-864), and they will not be deemed a public charge for
       receiving public benefits provided for under the abused noncitizen provisions.

•      However, when applying for adjustment of status, VAWA petitioners must still establish
       that they will not become a public charge, normally by showing proof of employment,
       job offers, assets, etc.

Illegal Entrants and Immigration Violators

•      A special waiver is available for VAWA petitioners for “visa fraud” if they can show that
       they themselves, their USC or LPR parent, or their child (whether or not a USC or LPR)
       would suffer “extreme hardship” if they were removed from the U.S. INA § 212(i)(1), as
       amended by VTVPA § 1505(c).

Aliens Previously Removed (Deported) or Unlawfully Present

Anyone who accumulates 6 months to a year of “unlawful presence” in the U.S. and then
departs – no matter however urgent or valid the reason for the trip -- triggers a three-year period
during which they cannot be readmitted to the U.S. The only exception is normally to remain
abroad, apply for, and obtain a waiver of inadmissibility which requires showing that denial of
admission would cause extreme hardship to the traveler or to her LPR or USC parent(s) or
spouse. Hardship to the traveler herself, or to her LPR or USC children, is irrelevant. If she has
accumulated more than a year and then travels, the bar is for ten years instead of three. These
harsh consequences are known as the “3-year and 10-year bars.”

If this same person returns to the U.S. without first winning the waiver, then she is
“permanently” barred from being admitted or obtaining legal residency. In reality, she can be

readmitted someday, provided she leaves the U.S. again, waits abroad for ten years from the date
she leaves, and then applies for and wins the same waiver she neglected to obtain earlier.

Although the law in this area is not written clearly and is not settled, advocates believe that
approved VAWA petitioners are not subject to the unlawful presence bars in certain situations:

•      If she can show that she first arrived in the U.S. before April 1, 1997, she is not subject to
       the bar. Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (“IIRIRA”) §

•      If she first arrived in the U.S. on or after April 1, 1997, the bar can be waived if she
       shows a “substantial connection” between the abuse, and her unlawful presence in the
       U.S. IIRIRA § 301(c)(2).

•      If she triggered the 10-year bar to admission by accruing one year or more of unlawful
       presence and then leaving the U.S., then triggered the “permanent bar” by reentering or
       attempting to reenter the U.S., the bar can be waived if she shows a “connection”
       between the abuse she suffered and her departure, reentry, or attempted reentry. INA §
       212(a)(9)(C)(ii), as amended by VTVPA § 1505(a).

Inadmissibility waivers are applied for on Form I-601, with the filing fee or fee waiver request,
and a complete set of supporting documents, as a freestanding packet separate from the
adjustment application or VAWA petition.

Please contact an LAFMC immigration attorney for assistance if your client appears to have any
inadmissibility issues. The law on admissibility is complicated and often changes.

                          PREPARING FOR THE INTERVIEW

After the I-485 is submitted, CIS will send her a notice telling her to go to a CIS Application
Support Center to be fingerprinted for a criminal background check. A few months after
fingerprinting, she should receive notice of her adjustment interview at the local CIS office,
usually about six weeks before the interview date.

Make sure you bring the following documents to the interview:
•     Your copy of the I-360 petition and supporting documents (CIS should have the VAWA
      file there), and the original I-360 approval notice to show
•     Your copy of the I-485 packet

•      Original marriage and birth certificates, and any divorce decrees
•      Additional documents shown below under What to bring

Usually, the adjustment interview for an approved VAWA petitioner is uneventful and
the CIS officer will only ask her a few routine questions. However, sometimes an
inexperienced or difficult officer, or one who has not had the time to review the VAWA
file, will start questioning your client about the abuse she suffered. If this happens,
inform the officer that the I-360 has already been adjudicated by the Vermont Service
Center, which retains authority to re-examine approved I-360s. Refer the officer to the
August 5, 2002 INS Memorandum, “Revocation of VAWA-Based Self-Petitions (I-
360s),” and ask to speak to a supervisor.

Some officers may try to trick your client into admitting information that could make her
inadmissible and ineligible to adjust, e.g., “When was the last time you voted in the
U.S.?” This is relevant because only U.S. citizens can vote, voting illegally is a ground
of inadmissibility under INA § 212(a)(10)(D), and a false claim to citizenship makes a
person permanently inadmissible under INA § 212(a)(6)(C)(ii).

You should prepare your client for her adjustment interview by practicing with a mock
interview. If your client does not feel confident speaking English, you must find an
interpreter to accompany you to the interview. Under CIS policy, the interpreter cannot
be the applicant‟s relative or attorney, but need not be a professional interpreter: a friend,
domestic violence counselor or advocate, or another employee of the attorney‟s firm are
all acceptable.

Give your client the following guide for the adjustment interview. A Spanish translation
will be available on the VAWA Pro Bono website soon after this writing (3/05).

Make sure you have reviewed all of the information on your I-485 application. The
officer will question you to update the application, and to be sure you qualify for
legal residency. You are likely to be asked some but rarely all of the following

What is your name?

What are your home address and home telephone?

What is your date of birth?

What are your parents‟ first names?

Are you married? Divorced? Remarried?
       (VAWA beneficiaries may remarry after their VAWA is approved and still

Do you have any children?

What are their names and dates of birth?

In what country/ies were they born?

Do they live with you?

Are you working now? Where?

How did you enter the U.S. for the first time? (DOE, POE, and MOE)
      when, where, and how: without inspection? or with a visa? If so, what type?
      manner of entry: on foot? in car/van/bus/truck/ ? by train? plane?

Did you ever leave after that first entry? When?

When did you return to the U.S.? When, where and how? (DOE, POE, and MOE --
same information for all departures and reentries]

Have you ever been arrested by the police for any reason, in the U.S. or elsewhere?

Have you ever received any benefit from the government for yourself, other than
emergency medical services?

Have you ever been involved in any terrorist acts?

Have you ever engaged in espionage? (spying)

Do you intend to do any kinds of act to overthrow the U.S. government by force or

Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?

Have you ever discriminated against anyone based on race, religion, nationality or
political opinion?

Have you ever been deported?

Are you currently in deportation proceedings?

Are you currently going to court for any reason?

Have you ever tried to enter the U.S. on false documents or on papers that didn‟t belong
to you?

OR Have you ever used someone else‟s papers (visa, green card, birth certificate,
     passport) for any immigration benefit, or to gain entry into the United States?

Have you ever helped anyone else try to enter the U.S. illegally?

Have you ever voted in the U.S.?

Have you ever registered to vote in the U.S.?

Have you ever told tell anyone that you are a U.S. citizen?

What to bring:

Original + 2 photocopies:
- dated letter by employer showing total hours you work per week + pay per hour
                 or 3 recent earnings statements (paycheck stubs)
- if receiving child support, proof of this (original + 2 photocopies)
- certified court disposition from Clerk of Court, NOT police department, for all criminal
- birth certificates of any children born since the VAWA was filed
- final judgment of dissolution of marriage, if divorced since the VAWA was filed
- marriage certificate if have remarried since the VAWA was approved

Originals to show CIS if asked:
- all original primary documents:
         - your own original birth certificate
         - if have children, their original birth certificates
         - if divorced, original judgment of dissolution and 2 copies
         - any other documents for which you submitted copies with your VAWA petition,
         if you
                  have originals
- unexpired state ID, driver‟s license, or consular ID
- employment authorization card
- 2 passport-type photos, if not already submitted with application
- current passport valid for at least 1 year, so CIS can stamp it to show approved for LPR

           o NOTE: If client is Mexican and has never had a Mexican passport, she
             will have to turn in her original birth certificate at the Mexican consulate

              when she applies for one. Advise her to get a second original birth
              certificate now, while her VAWA is being prepared, so that she can get a
              passport in time for her adjustment interview. If she can‟t get a second
              birth certificate, it is more important to save the one she has for the
              interview than to have the passport.

The FBI fingerprint report is good for 15 months. If they were taken longer ago than
that, CIS will provide a new fingerprint appointment letter at the adjustment interview.

Once your adjustment application is approved, your permanent resident card (I-
551) (Spanish mica) will take 1-9 months to arrive by mail. In the meantime, the I-
551 stamp that CIS will place in your passport serves as your temporary green card
for purposes of showing that you are entitled to work in the U.S., for readmission to
the     U.S.     after    travel    abroad,      and      all    other     purposes.

                                     FINAL STEPS

At the interview, the client will be fingerprinted and processed for her I-551 (“green
card”). The examiner will take her EAD and will stamp her passport with: “Processed for
I-551 Temporary Evidence of Lawful Admission for Permanent Residency. Valid Until
____. Employment Authorized.” The stamp is valid for one year. The client should
receive her I-551 card by mail within three to six months. If the card has not arrived by
shortly before the passport stamp will expire, use the CIS website,, to
make an InfoPass appointment to speak to a CIS official. At the appointment, the client
should ask CIS to stamp her passport for another year, and see if Chicago can tell her
what is causing the delay. She should also send a G-731 inquiry form to the Nebraska
Service Center to inquire into the delay. Sometimes, the NSC replies that the card was
already sent out to a former address and returned as undeliverable, in which case the
client may have to file an I-90, with fee and new photos, for a replacement card.

The I-551 card is proof of your client‟s lawful permanent residency and of her right to
live and work in the U.S. An LPR can travel abroad and re-enter the U.S. by showing her
passport and I-551 card. However, you should caution your client that absences from the
U.S. of more than six months may jeopardize her LPR status. When an LPR returns from
an absence of over 180 days, the immigration law enforcement agency, Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE), may determine that she has “abandoned” her residency and
seize her I-551 card.

For more information, see the CIS website for “Welcome to the United States: A Guide
for New Immigrants,” in the right-hand column under “Hot Topics.”

Advise your client to make several good-qualify photocopies of both sides of her new I-
551 card, so that she always has a photocopies at home and in her purse and each bag
when she travels. If it is lost or stolen, this will facilitate her being readmitted to the
U.S., and applying for a replacement (see Form I-90).

VAWA petitioners may be eager to become naturalized U.S. citizens as soon as possible
so that they can petition to bring their parents to the U.S. as LPRs, petition a new spouse,
or petition their siblings, a much longer process. VAWA petitioners whose husbands
were LPRs are eligible to apply for citizenship (“naturalization”) after residing in the
U.S. as LPRs for five years. VAWA petitioners whose husbands were USCs may apply
for naturalization after residing in the U.S. as an LPR for only three years, even if they
have separated or divorced. This extends the same benefit to spouses of abusive USCs as
to spouses of USCs who still live in an intact marriage with no separations.

All applicants for naturalization can apply up to 90 days before their 3- or 5-year period
as LPRs is complete.