Understanding VAWA and self-petitioning
VAWA or the Violence Against Women Act offers protections and allows victims of domestic violence or spousal abuse to “self-petition” to obtain a green card without the cooperation of the U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative who is abusing them. VAWA applies to women, men, and children.
One of the key pieces of evidence you will need to submit along with your application (Form 1-360) is to write a personal declaration.
Documents to support your self-petition
As you write your letter you want to be thinking about the other key pieces of evidence that you will need to gather to support your self-petition. Here are some of the documents that you will want to include;
Physical evidence (texts, letters, emails, photographs, etc)
Psychological evaluation or letter from your therapist
Written statements from friends or family members
Remember to make sure documents are time/date stamped and you keep all documents in a safe place.
How to write your Personal Declaration Letter
As you begin writing your self-petition statement/ personal declaration letter, make sure your declaration is written like a story and is in your own words. You need to be able to explain exactly why you need to self-petition.
Before you start writing it would be helpful to sit down and gather your thoughts and write down some points and notes to help you as you write your letter so you don’t forget any important details or information.
The outline below will help you write your Personal Declaration Letter.
Section #1 of your Personal Declaration Letter
You should begin your letter with the following statement, “I swear under penalty of perjury that the following is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.“
The first part of your letter should describe your relationship with the abuser and details explaining how you are eligible for VAWA.
This part of your letter should include the following details;
How you met the abuser (husband, spouse)?
How your relationship developed?
How long did you date before you were married?
Why you both decided to marry and were you in love?
How long you have been married?
Did you have children together?
How long were you together before you had your first child?
What your home life looks like together?
Section #2 of your Personal Declaration Letter
Then, you should detail the types of abuse you suffered and when and where the instance of the abuse occurred. It is best to include the worst of the abuse first. It is best to include as much detail as you can. In this second you can also refer to your physical documents, and also include dates, times, reports filed, photos, text, emails, you have, etc.
Some of the questions to answer are;
When in the relationship did the abuse start?
Did your spouse’s behavior change?
Did you feel afraid that they would hurt you?
How did your spouse act towards you after the abuse happened?
Did you ever receive medical treatment?
Did they verbally threaten you?
Were you forced to do things you didn’t want to do?
Did you free controlled?
Did they hurt or threaten your children, family, friends, or your pets?
Section #3 of your Personal Declaration Letter
Finally, you want to include in your personal declaration letter evidence that showcases that you are indeed a good person. “Good moral character”, is one of the documents that you must include when filing for VAWA. A few examples of “good moral character” are included below.
Letter from your place of worship
Letter from community activities or events
Letters from employment
Final Section of your Personal Declaration Letter
You want to include the following statement at the end of your letter. “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.” Then sign and date your personal declaration letter.
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How to Write Your Personal Declaration Letter
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Areas of Immigration Law:
Naturalization (Citizenship) Application
Immigrant Relative Petitions
Fiancé Visa Applications
Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing
Criminal Consequences and Deportation Defense
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Application
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
Green Card Renewals
Temporary Work Visas
Temporary Protected Status
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals