“Rebecca” is a Canadian national who came to SGG for help after her marriage-based green card case was referred to the Fraud Unit (FDNS) for investigation of her marriage. FDNS conducted two surprise home raids after Rebecca and her husband’s green card interview, suspecting that her marriage was not real but was entered into for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card for Rebecca. During this time, Rebecca’s husband was physically, emotionally, and financially abusive towards her. Fearing for her own safety, Rebecca could not disclose to the immigration officer at the joint interview what was going on nor safely explain any inconsistencies in her husband’s testimony. Months later, after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) referred the case to the fraud unit, the local USCIS office (which is known for marriage fraud investigations) issued a notice intending to deny Rebecca’s green card case, on the basis that she could not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she married her spouse in good faith.
SGG attorneys filed a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Immigrant Visa Petition for Rebecca. The VAWA case, if approved, would have given Rebecca a path to residency without her husband’s knowledge, consent, and involvement, confidentiality provisions that Congress intentionally set up for the protection of abused spouses who have the sole burden of proving their eligibility for the Immigrant Visa and eventual green card.
VAWA cases also require the abused spouse to prove s/he entered into the marriage in good faith, but are not held to the same level of documentation normally associated with someone in a caring, non-controlling relationship. A VAWA Self-Petitioner may provide “any credible evidence” and must explain why additional evidence is not available. In Rebecca’s case, SGG attorneys explained the tight control her husband exercised over her, which accounted for any inconsistencies in the interview, documentation, and what was found during the home raids. Rebecca also documented the case with over 30 witness statements and additional bona fide marriage documentation including insurance policies, joint utility bills, joint lease, joint income taxes, and actively used bank accounts. USCIS issued a Request for Evidence on the bona fide marriage issue. Rebecca addressed each point in her detailed response and provided more evidence. Although USCIS believed Rebecca was abused, the agency ultimately denied her VAWA Immigrant Visa.
SGG attorneys appealed the decision to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). In the appeal, SGG attorneys argued that USCIS incorrectly applied the law in its decision, made unreasonable requests for evidence, failed to review evidence throughout the file, and misstated the amount of evidence presented. SGG also argued that USCIS raised new evidence concerns in the denial, which did not give Rebecca any opportunity to respond to the claims prior to the denial.
The AAO sustained the appeal and sided with Rebecca, concluding that Rebecca proved she entered into her marriage in good faith. The case was sent back to the USCIS VAWA unit to reopen. Rebecca was able to renew her work authorization and is continuing to process her green card case without her husband. Both SGG and Rebecca are very pleased with the outcome.