Intimate partner violence is a serious problem in the United States. Every year, thousands of women are victims of this type of violence. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to help victims of intimate partner violence get the help they need.
One way that VAWA helps victims is by allowing them to self-petition for a VAWA visa. Victims can apply for a visa without their abuser’s knowledge or consent. Another way it can help us is through a psychological report, which can be a valuable part of a VAWA self-petition. We recommend working with a psychologist that specializes in immigration psychology. Having this report helps document the abuse’s effects and show that the victim is a credible witness.
If you are a victim of intimate partner violence, you can do a few things to help the self-petition process:
- It is important to gather as much evidence as possible. That can include police reports, medical records, and eyewitness testimony.
- You should consider getting a psychological report. This report can help document the abuse’s effects and show that you are a credible witness.
- It is important to be patient and understand that the self-petition process can take some time.
- If you are a victim of intimate partner violence, you are not alone. There are resources available to help you. The Violence Against Women Act can help you get the necessary protection and assistance.
Defining Intimate Partner Violence (IVP) And How It Differs From Domestic Violence
IPV includes physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by a current or former intimate partner. It can happen to people of any race, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status.
IPV is often called domestic violence, family violence, or relationship abuse. Domestic violence is a broader term that can include spouses or intimate partners and other family members. Family violence describes all forms of violence and abuse within families and intimate relationships.
While there is an overlap between these terms, there are also some important distinctions. IPV specifically refers to violence committed by a current or former intimate partner, whereas domestic violence can include violence committed by any family member. Family violence is the most inclusive term and can encompass both IPV and domestic violence.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines four types of IPV: physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression (including coercive tactics):
- Physical violence refers to any form of physical force used against a victim with the intent to cause harm. That can include hitting, kicking, choking, strangling, using weapons, or any other form of physical force.
- Sexual violence includes any form of sexual contact without consent. That can include rape or attempted rape, forced sexual intercourse, unwanted sexual touching, fondling, or coercing someone into engaging in unwanted sexual activity.
- Stalking refers to repeated harassing behaviors threatening the safety or making them feel fearful.
- Psychological aggression includes tactics like intimidation, isolation, verbal abuse, or threats of harm.
IPV can have lasting effects on victims’ physical and mental health and overall well-being. Victims of IPV are at increased risk for developing chronic conditions like heart disease and depression. They may also experience problems with alcohol and substance use disorders and difficulties at work or school. Children who witness IPV are more likely to experience emotional and behavioral problems later in life.
Outlining The Requirements For VAWA Self-Petitioners
To be eligible for a VAWA visa through self-petition, victims of IPV must demonstrate that they have suffered abuse from their spouse or partner. They must also show good moral character and meet the other eligibility requirements for immigration to the United States.
Victims of IPV who wish to self-petition under VAWA must complete Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow (er), or Special Immigrant. They must also submit evidence documenting the abuse they have suffered, as well as evidence of their good moral character. In some cases, victims of IPV may also need to submit a psychological report documenting the effects of the abuse.
Once granted a VAWA visa, self-petitioners will be given lawful permanent resident status in the United States. This status allows them to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation to their home country.
The Benefits Of Having A Psychological Report As Part Of A VAWA Self-Petition
A psychological report can be extremely helpful in a VAWA self-petition for several reasons:
- It can help to establish the existence of an abusive relationship.
- It can provide documentation of the effects of the abuse on the victim.
- It can help establish that the victim meets the eligibility requirements for a VAWA self-petition.
One of the key elements of a VAWA self-petition involves demonstrating that the victim has suffered abuse from their spouse or partner. That can be difficult to prove, but immigration psychologists play an important role in helping victims gather the needed evidence. A psychological report can help establish this by documenting any physical or psychological injuries from the abuse. Additionally, a psychological report can help establish an abusive relationship’s existence by documenting patterns of behavior seen in abusive relationships.
Psychologists can provide expert testimony on the effects of IPV, which can help show that the victim meets the definition of a victim under VAWA. They can also provide other evidence, such as reports from law enforcement or medical professionals, that can help corroborate the victim’s story.
Another key element of a VAWA self-petition is demonstrating that the victim meets the other eligibility requirements for immigration to the United States. The way this is established is through an immigration evaluation. A psychological report from someone who specializes in immigration psychology helps establish by documenting any emotional or mental health problems from the abuse.
The report can also help to establish that the victim cannot return to their home country safely by documenting any fear or anxiety they may have about returning.
In addition to helping gather evidence, psychologists can also provide support and counseling to victims of IPV. That can be crucial in helping them deal with the trauma of their experience and giving them the strength to pursue their immigration case.
If you are a victim of IPV, don’t hesitate to reach out to a psychologist for help. With their assistance, you may be able to obtain immigration status through a VAWA visa and start rebuilding your life.
Overall, a psychological report can be extremely helpful evidence in a VAWA self-petition. It can help to establish both the existence of an abusive relationship and the eligibility requirements for immigration to the United States.
The VAWA Self-Petition Process
The victim can start the VAWA self-petition process, or someone else can start it on their behalf, such as an attorney.
The first step is to file Form I-360, which is the Petition for Amerasian, Widow (er), or Special Immigrant. Alongside this form, victims need to provide evidence of the abuse, including a personal declaration from the victim describing the abuse, police reports, medical records, and any other documentation that may be helpful.
After filling out Form I-360, the victim undergoes an immigration evaluation interview with an immigration officer. During this interview, the officer asks questions about the abuse and evaluates whether the victim meets the eligibility requirements for a VAWA self-petition. If the victim is found eligible, they will be granted lawful permanent resident status in the United States through a VAWA visa.
The VAWA self-petition process can be long and difficult. Still, it is possible to get through it with the help of an experienced attorney and a psychological report documenting the abuse.
Tips For Victims Of Intimate Partner Violence Who Are Considering Filing A VAWA Self-Petition
If you are a victim of intimate partner violence, you may consider filing a VAWA self-petition. Here are some tips to help you through the process:
- Gather evidence of the abuse. That can include police reports, medical records, restraining orders, and letters from witnesses.
- Fill out the self-petition form completely and accurately. Make sure to include all relevant information about the abuse and your relationship with the abuser.
- Submit the self-petition to USCIS along with the required supporting documentation.
- Once your self-petition receives approval, you will be able to apply for a green card.
- If your abuser is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, they will get a notice about your self-petition and will be able to respond to it. However, if you have been granted a restraining order, this notice will not be sent until after the order has been served on your abuser.
Following these tips will help ensure that your VAWA visa self-petition is processed smoothly and that you are able to obtain the immigration benefits you deserve.
If you’re seeking a VAWA visa and would like to do an immigration evaluation for psychological effects of abuse as support for your case, Claudia Ribas, LCSW is a licensed psychologist who specializes in immigration psychology. Schedule a consultation today!