Most Common Reasons VAWA Applications Get Denied

A VAWA visa or green card is a type of “special immigrant” status that is issued to abused spouses or children of green card holders or U.S. citizens.  Abused parents of U.S. citizens can also qualify for immigration relief and a green card by filing a VAWA self-petition.  

“VAWA” is an acronym that stands for the Violence Against Women Act. VAWA was authored by then-Senator Joe Biden and championed by other American politicians in 1993. It was ratified into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

VAWA was initially a law that offered federal protections, resources, and services to help victims of domestic violence, rape, and stalking. VAWA is reauthorized every five years.  Each reauthorization has provided additional protections for victims of abuse.

The 2013 VAWA reauthorization allowed the immigrant victims of domestic abuse, including men, women, children, or parents, to apply for protection from removal, work authorization, and eventually a green card without the assistance or knowledge of their abuser.

VAWA applications are approved about 75% of the time. However, never take it for granted that your VAWA application will be automatically approved.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and other bureaucratic issues, work and family-oriented visa processing have essentially reached a standstill. Almost a million visa applications are waiting for final processing or the interview process as of June 2022. 

Only 28,000 visa applications were processed by June 2022.

It could take over 26 months for most VAWA applications to be fully processed. However, processing does not mean approval.  It is imperative that your application is thorough, supported by strong evidence, and consistent.  

Statistically speaking, over 25% of VAWA applications are denied. An application denial can cost you time and money.

The sad truth is that many VAWA applications are denied as a result of mistakes that could be prevented.  

Related: VAWA Eligibility Requirements: How To Qualify 

Why Are VAWA Applications Denied? 

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VAWA is a “self-petition.”.  Essentially, the applicant does not have to rely on the abuser to apply for and receive a green card through VAWA.  In fact, the abuser is not involved in the application process, does not need to provide signatures, and is not even contacted by USCIS or immigration authorities.  It is possible for your VAWA to be approved without the knowledge of the abuser.  VAWA is intended to be a fully confidential process to encourage victims of abuse to seek protection, escape a cycle of extreme cruelty, and find freedom.

For approval, VAWA applications must be thorough and complete.  Most applicants can provide a detailed declaration as evidence of abuse.  Additional evidence of abuse such as photographs, police reports, and witness statements can be included but is not necessary for VAWA approval.  Applicants should also include evidence that their marriage is/was real and not just for immigration purposes and proof of cohabitation with the abuser.

Many VAWA applicants are also eligible to file additional applications for a green card, work authorization, and travel authorization concurrently with the VAWA self-petition.  Evidence supporting each application must be included.  Mistakes on forms or inconsistencies in evidence can result in a denial or delay in application processing.  

Below are the most common reasons why VAWA applications are denied. Take note that most of these mistakes can be prevented with the help of experienced immigration counsel.

1. Incorrect Information on Documents or Forms

Names, dates, and other data should be accurate and consistent with concurrently filed applications as well as previous immigration applications.  All discrepancies should be accounted for and explained.   It is imperative that VAWA applicants clearly understand what USCIS is seeking and provide complete and thorough information.  If additional information is necessary to provide a complete answer, it is important to add the information in a supplement.  Inaccuracies, typos, and inconsistencies will result in your application being denied, rejected, or delayed.  

Often, victims of abuse do not have access to their spouse’s documents or key pieces of evidence.  An immigration attorney will be able to make suggestions on alternative pieces of evidence to support the VAWA application.  Sometimes, USCIS may be able to verify your abuser’s immigration status.  Accordingly, it is important to understand exactly what should be provided and what you can ask USCIS to verify on your behalf.

2. Incorrect Document or Form Submission

Many applicants will file 4 separate forms/applications and supporting evidence as part of their VAWA and green card application process.  Others are not eligible to file all 4 for a variety of reasons.  Your immigration history, including your manner of entry, previous marriages, entries and exits, criminal history, and experience in immigration court can all impact which applications should be filed.  It is important to consult with an immigration attorney to ensure that the correct forms are filed and that you take advantage of all the privileges that are available to you when you file a VAWA self-petition.

For all VAWA applications, you must file form  I-360. Many VAWA applicants also file the I-485 as well as applications for work authorization and travel authorization.  You will not receive a green card, work permit, or travel authorization unless the corresponding applications are filed in addition to the VAWA self-petition.

Supporting evidence including passport photos, proof of good moral character, proof of cohabitation, proof of the relationship with the abuser, a detailed declaration, and filing fees are all required.  No two VAWA applications are identical.  To put forth the strongest application for you, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney who will conduct several intakes, strategize on providing the best documents possible, answer all your questions, organize your applications and evidence, thoroughly review and edit your application, and prepare you for possible green card interviews.  Many attorneys will also provide legal representation at green card interviews.  

VAWA self-petitions are complicated and working with an attorney greatly increases the chances of approval as quickly as possible.

Related: VAWA: How Long Does A Petition Take?

3. Proof of Abuser’s LPR or U.S. Citizen Status

To qualify for a VAWA self-petition, the abuser must be a green card holder or U.S. citizen.  However, many VAWA applicants do not have access to documents proving the immigration status of the abuser.  Accordingly, USCIS can verify your abuser’s status, but you must ask them to do so.  Many VAWA applicants can also provide alternate documents showing the abuser’s status.  

4. Not Submitting Enough Proof of a Bona Fide Marriage

One of the biggest reasons why VAWA applications get denied is because the applicant did not provide sufficient evidence that the marriage existed or was entered into in good faith.

In other other words, it is up to you to provide legitimate proof that your marriage is real and non-fraudulent.

Failure to do so will result in your VAWA application being denied. Fraudulent marriages entered into for immigration purposes only will not qualify for VAWA.  Evidence of a bona fide marriage varies per application.  Most applications include a marriage certificate, birth certificates of children born to the couple, photographs, evidence of joint residence, evidence of commingled finances, and more. An immigration attorney can help you select the strongest pieces of evidence to show that your marriage was real and not just for immigration purposes.

Don’t apply for a VAWA self-petition alone. Contact the Agarwal Law Group today to get personalized immigration advice.

5. Not Submitting Enough Proof To Establish Extreme Cruelty 

A Woman in White Long Sleeves Using a Laptop while Having a Phone Call

A detailed, organized, declaration outlining the abuse is essential for all VAWA applications.  Many immigration firms will conduct a declaration intake that can last several hours.  They will help you organize the various forms of abuse endured and highlight the most important details to help you qualify for VAWA.  Many VAWA applications are approved with only a detailed declaration.  

Additional evidence of abuse can include psychological evaluations, police reports, affidavits from witnesses, medical records, photographs of property damage, hurtful emails, screenshots of text messages, or photos of physical harm.

Knowing how to understand and communicate the abuse you endured can be challenging and traumatic.  An experienced immigration law firm can help organize strong evidence of abuse required for approval of all VAWA self-petitions. 

6. Missing Key Filing Deadlines

It is highly important to know if you missed the deadline to apply for VAWA.  Note: you can only apply for VAWA while you are still married, separated, or within 2 years of a divorce.  Children must be under 21 to apply based on an abusive parent, although some children may be able to apply until they are 25 years old.  It is important to work with an attorney to understand any applicable deadlines.

7. Missing Appointment Deadlines

The VAWA application process includes various appointments and potential deadlines.  For example, all applicants are required to provide biometrics.  Some VAWA applicants concurrently file for a green card application and will be required to attend an interview.  Other VAWA applicants receive requests for additional evidence or notices of an intent to deny their application.  All responses have strict deadlines.  Missing an appointment or a deadline will result in a denial, with no exceptions.  

Also, many VAWA applicants continue to live with their abuser while their application is being processed.  Abusers can be known to destroy or withhold notices from USCIS or immigration authorities.  Working with a law firm will allow you to have a “safe” address.  The law firm will receive all important documents relating to your case, can notify you electronically or by phone, and send reminders for appointments or deadlines.  

It takes over 26 months to get a VAWA application adjudicated. Missing a deadline or appointment will result in denial and will require you to begin again.  Time will be lost and filing fees will not be refunded.  Accordingly, work with a legal team that is looking out for your best interests and will ensure that you receive the information you need for a VAWA approval and possible green card approval.  

Related: VAWA Eligibility Requirements: How To Qualify 

8. Submitting Petitions to The Wrong Place 

Where to file can be extremely confusing.  No matter how strong your VAWA application is, it will be returned if you do not send it to the right place.  Immigration offices are all throughout the U.S. and can include service centers, field offices, and other concierge services.  Experienced attorneys will know exactly where to file your applications, monitor your case status, submit inquiries when delays are noted, and shepherd you and your applications until a decision is made on your case.  

Do you want to increase the chances of a VAWA approval? The Agarwal Law Group can help 

If there is one takeaway from this article, it is that you should not attempt to apply for VAWA on your own in order to increase your chances of approval. The benefits of a properly filed application are huge–a green card, work permit, and ability to travel internationally and return safely.  Don’t risk jeopardizing your ability to gain status in the U.S.  Work with experienced attorneys to prepare and file your VAWA self-petition and corresponding green card application.

Contact the Agarwal Law Group to help you get status in the U.S. 

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