Having your marriage fall apart can be hard enough but when you are also in the middle of your immigration process it can become overwhelming, to say the least. Suppose you have filed your petition to become a permanent resident due to marriage but are getting divorced before your conditional green card interview. It is unlikely that you will be able to proceed with a marriage-based green card. However, if the marriage ended due to physical abuse or extreme mental cruelty, a VAWA (‘Violence Against Women Act’) self-petition can be filed. Or, in extreme cases where the applicant is a victim of a violent crime, a U Visa may also be an option.

Filing a VAWA self-petition depends on a few factors like:

  • You must live in the U.S (with a few exceptions).

  • You must be the child, parent, or spouse of an abuser.

  • Your abuser must be a permanent resident or U.S. citizen.

  • You must have lived together with the abuser at one point.

  • You have to prove that abuse occurred during your relationship.

  • Your marriage was in good faith.

  • You have no criminal history during the past three years.

If you find yourself in this situation, consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to see if any alternative solutions may be possible to get your green card and remain in the United States.

VAWA stands for the ‘Violence Against Women Act’ and one element of this law applies specifically to immigrants (male or female) who are victims of domestic violence. It allows immigrant victims of abuse to discreetly apply for a green card without having to rely on their abuser to petition for them.

Below is a step-by-step overview of how to get your VAWA Green Card Petition started.

Step One:

VAWA Green Card Petition For a self-petitioner applying for a VAWA green card, you will file on your behalf using Form I-360. The application must include evidence that shows proof of marriage, birth certificates, and citizenship status, as well as proof of abuse and legitimacy of their marriage

Step Two: Submitting the Petition

Once the USCIS reviews and approves your petition, they will issue you an approval notice. This case type can take a long time so it may be 1-2 years, or more or less (every case differs!). This notice does not give you legal status in the US yet, however, the US government is sympathetic to VAWA applicant’s situations and will allow you to remain in the country and apply for a work permit while you wait for your green card if you are eligible to apply for the green card too.

Step Three: Priority Date

While typically you would need to wait for your priority date to become current to apply for adjustment of status and proceed on to the final step, if your case is based on your relationship with your US Citizen Spouse or USC parent or child, then you may file your application for adjustment of status with your I-360 VAWA Petition, at the same time!

Step Four: Adjustment of Status

To file for adjustment of status and complete your visa application, if you were not eligible to file it with the I-360 Petition and have not yet done so, you’ll have to file Form I-485 with the USCIS. Appropriate supporting documentation is required as well. Once you submit this application, you are now authorized to remain and stay in the US to wait until a decision has been made, and you can apply to receive a work permit even while waiting for your green card.

You should anticipate having to appear for an interview at the local USCIS office and hopefully become approved for lawful resident status. Unlike in other family immigration cases, the abusive person is not required to be present at the interview.

To learn more about VAWA, click here. We are here to support you throughout the whole process. Get in touch with the experienced immigration attorneys at JLB Law Group today!