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VAWA Document Collection Checklist for Self-Petitioners

Protection from Violence or Abuse

This article will tell you about all the necessary documents to apply for VAWA relief.

Learn more about how Immigrant survivors of domestic abuse can apply for VAWA relief and what documents are necessary.


Special thanks to Tahirih Justice Center for their contribution to this article.

This checklist, created by the Tahirih Justice Center, can help applicants gather the documents they need to support their VAWA self-petition. 

Each and every document listed is not necessary. Only some proof of each category is mandatory. This list provides only suggestions. All documents must be in English or translated into English. Information regarding any and all of these categories can be included in the applicant’s family members' and friends affidavits.

The categories of proof are: 

  1. Applicant’s identity and current status  
  2. Evidence of abuser’s status 
  3. Proof of relationship and good faith marriage 
  4. Residence with abuser and current residence in U.S. 
  5. Good moral character 
  6. Abuse or extreme cruelty 

Documents for Proving Applicant’s Identity and Current Status

  • Applicant and children’s birth certificates 

  • Applicant and children’s passports, visas to enter the U.S. and I-94 (expired or current) 

  • Applicant’s driver’s license 

  • Any documentation to or from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Evidence of Abuser’s Status

Proof of Relationship and Good Faith Marriage

Evidence of “residence with abuser” plus:


  • Marriage certificates 

  • Birth certificates of children together 

  • Wedding photos and other photos of spouses together (before and after wedding) 

  • Letter from employer stating changed name or listed spouse as contact 

  • Photo IDs (with married name) 

  • Declarations from friends and neighbors 

  • Wills 

  • Joint life insurance documents 

  • Joint health insurance documents 

  • Joint car ownership documentation and joint auto insurance 

  • Correspondence between spouses or between abuser & applicant’s family members 

  • Correspondence addressed to the couple 

  • Proof of vacations taken together 

  • Proof of major purchases made together.


Proof of Residence with Abuser and Current Residence in U.S.

  • Leases, deeds, mortgages with name (both names if for co-residence), rent receipts, 

  • Letters from landlord or neighbors at each address 

  • Tax returns (joint for co-residence) 

  • Insurance policies naming spouse as beneficiary 

  • Letters, cards, junk mail addressed to both spouses or different letters to each spouse at the same address 

  • Bills (such as gas, electric, water, cable, telephone, rent) 

  • School and medical reports 

  • Credit card bills 

  • Joint bank accounts 

  • Magazine subscriptions in both names 

  • Affidavits by people who knew that the applicant and abuser lived together 

  • Legal documents with both names.

Proof of Good Moral Character

  • Police clearance letters for every place applicant has lived for six months or more for the past three years, or affidavits explaining efforts to obtain such letters; 
  • FBI background check
  • Awards, certificates of appreciation, etc.
  • Letter from pastors, ministers, church or civic club officials.

Documentation of Abuse or Extreme Cruelty

  • Police reports (incident reports and victim’s referral card)
  • Restraining orders or protective orders
  • Photos of bruises, cuts, injuries, etc.
  • Shelter or domestic violence center forms or letters from center counselors.
  • Medical records.
  • Physiological evaluations.
  • CPS reports.
  • Affidavits from friends, family, neighbors, or witnesses

To apply for VAWA relief go to our Guide for Detained Immigrants: VAWA, U Visas, T Visas.

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