Our Blog

A Road Map to Citizenship: Maria’s Story of Applying for Status Through VAWA

June 26, 2023
  • News

Last week, we discussed how Eagan Immigration can help you find a road map to go from undocumented immigrant to U.S. citizen as quickly as possible. Eagan specializes in finding possibilities where other attorneys see only obstacles. We’ve successfully shepherded many clients to citizenship through various types of visas, including those available to victims of trafficking or other crimes. We are particularly well versed in crafting Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitions, which allows undocumented individuals who have been physically, psychological, financially or sexually abused by their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parents, or by their adult U.S. citizen child, to apply to legal status in the United States without their abuser’s knowledge.  

But how does a VAWA petition work? Let’s follow “Maria” as she begins to navigate her own journey from undocumented immigrant to U.S. citizen  


Maria, a 48-year-old native of Mexico, first came to the United States when she was 20 years old so that she could look for work to support her family back home. A few years later, she met and married her husband, Juan, with whom she had three kids. Unfortunately, Maria has a lot of problems with her oldest son, Miguel, now 23 years old. Since he was 15 years old, Miguel has constantly gotten in trouble at school. He cut class so often that she had to go to court because in her state, parents are held responsible for their child’s truancy. Miguel never cared. Any time she tried to talk to him, he called her names, stormed off to his room and slammed the door. At other times, he completely ignored her. He refuses to help around the house, or contribute financially even after he dropped out of school and got a job. Maria hoped that if she remained patient, Miguel would outgrow his cruel behavior. Unfortunately, things have only often worse now that Miguel is an adult. He demands that Maria cook for him, and yells at her if she doesn’t prepare meals he liked. He frequently “borrows” her car without permission, and often smokes pot in his room despite this being a violation of her lease. Miguel tells Maria that he has more rights than her because he’s a U.S. citizen and she’s not, and that if she ever tried to report his thievery to the authorities, she would be the one who ended up under arrest. Maria is at her wits’ end, but feels like she has no choice but to endure Miguel’s poor treatment of her.  

Until one day that changes.  

Maria is scrolling her TikTok when she comes across an advertisement for Eagan Immigration. An Eagan attorney briefly outlines VAWA self-petitions, and encourages victims of abuse to reach out for a consultation. Maria is skeptical at first; after all, Miguel doesn’t actually hit her, so does it really count as abuse? Besides, she saw an attorney a few years ago who told her there was nothing she could do to change her status because she left the United States for a month once when Miguel was a teenager. She’s also in Texas, while a Google search tells her this firm is in Virginia. Still, she decides to pick up the phone.   

The first step: making contact. Maria calls the Eagan Immigration phone number and is connected to a receptionist who is fluent in her native Spanish. Maria is relieved, since talking on the phone in English is often hard for her, but she immediately feels at ease with the person she is talking to. The receptionist explains that Eagan is fully remote, so it does not matter where in the United States Maria is living because everything can be done over the phone. She asks Maria to share some basic information on her life: her name, date of birth, marital status, when and how she came to the United States, and her children’s names and ages. The receptionist assures her that an Eagan attorney will review the information and analyze her possible paths to citizenship before an official consultation.  A few weeks later, Maria has an official consultation with a member of the Eagan team, who explains in detail the attorney’s plan for getting Maria’s petition approved. In her case, it looks like a VAWA self-petition based on Miguel’s cruelty toward her is her best option for obtaining status. However, Maria has some reservations: does Miguel need to know she is accusing him of abuse in this petition? Will he get in trouble if she does?  

Maria is relieved when the answer is “no” and “no.” She fears Miguel’s reaction if he finds out what she is doing, but he’s still her son and she does not want him in trouble with the law. The Eagan representative, however, puts these fears at ease. So does the straight-forward pricing information she receives, alongside a payment plan that means she can pay for her case over time. Maria decides to move forward.  

The second step: providing the information. Next up, Maria takes an afternoon off work in preparation for the two long phone calls with a case strategist to tell her story and to give her all information the forms team needs to fill out her paperwork. Maria is not originally looking forward to this step because she’s so used to hiding the way that Miguel treats her, but the case strategist she speaks to is so kind and sympathetic and she soon feels at ease. When it’s over, the case strategist assures her that the forms team will be working on her documents, while the writing team will be using her own words to write a declaration that tells her story. Maria leaves the call hopeful.  

As she waits for her next step, Maria keeps busy by collecting the documents that her lawyer wants to include in her package. At first, she assumes this will be a monumental task, but it turns out to be easier than she thought. She digs up documents like her marriage certificate and Miguel’s birth certificate, snaps a photo with her phone and texts it to Eagan. She remembers a mean text she received from Miguel recently, so she takes a screenshot and sends that too. Electric bills providing her address and a few letters from her friends and pastor describing what a good person she is go the same way.  

After about a month, Maria is scheduled for another phone call with Eagan to review her declaration. When the time comes, she again sets aside a little quiet time when she can talk on the phone without being disturbed. As the case strategist reads her the declaration Eagan has prepared – stopping occasionally to ask a clarifying question – Maria feels relieved that not only does the declaration tell her story, it sounds like her own voice. She pays her filing fees, and her case is submitted to United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).  

Now, it is just time to wait.  

Stay tuned for Part 3: Maria’s waiting pays off!