Question: I am married to a U.S. citizen who is abusing me. To escape his abuse, I moved out of the home we shared. I am preparing to apply for a green card through VAWA, but I no longer live together with my abusive spouse. Will the fact that we do not live together hurt my VAWA petition? What documents do I need to provide to prove I lived with my abuser?
Answer: To apply for a green card on the basis of suffering battery or extreme cruelty, you must submit evidence to show that you lived with your abusive spouse. However you do not have to be living with your abusive spouse at the time you file your VAWA green card application. You can wait until you are living separately to file your VAWA application.
Pursuant to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), to apply for a green card on the basis of battery or extreme cruelty, you must submit evidence of each of the following:
- Evidence that the abuser is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (a green card holder);
- Evidence that you have or had bona fide marriage with your abuser;
- Evidence that your spouse abused you;
- Evidence that you are a person of good moral character; and
- Evidence that you and the abuser lived together.
On February 10, 2022, USCIS issued a modification of its interpretation of the “shared residence” requirement for VAWA petitioners. USCIS now requires that the VAWA self-petitioner only show that he or she had resided with the abuser at any time in the past. The phrase “at any time” includes time spent living with your intended spouse before getting married and time spent living with your abusive spouse during the marriage. If you are unable to continue to live with your abusive spouse during the marriage, this will not hurt your VAWA petition. You are not required to reside with your abusive spouse at the time of filing nor throughout the processing of your VAWA petition.
You must produce evidence to show that you and your abusive spouse lived together. Persuasive evidence of cohabitation includes the following:
- Utility bills;
- Mail to either you or your spouse at your shared residence;
- Medical records showing your shared address;
- Joint tax returns showing your shared address;
- Paystubs showing your address;
- Affidavits from your landlord, neighbors, or friends confirming that you and your spouse lived at the same address.
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ImmiFree.Law is The Harrison Law Firm P.C.’s online platform to make the family immigration and naturalization process more efficient, accurate, and affordable. Baya Harrison, Esq. is an attorney licensed in New York, Florida, and California. Attorney Harrison has helped numerous individuals and families navigate the U.S. immigration process, specifically family-based petitions and naturalization.