How can I get a VAWA Green Card??
Updated: Feb 12
VAWA stands for the 'Violence Against Women Act', which was passed by Congress in 1994. One element of this law applies specifically to immigrants 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.
In an ordinary immigration case, the US citizen spouse has to file a petition with USCIS in order to obtain permanent residency for their foreign partner. In relationships involving domestic violence, however, the participation of the US Citizen spouse is often used as a form of abuse to gain power and control over the victim's immigration status. It is for that reason that the US immigration law allows certain victims of abuse to obtain legal status on their own, without the involvement of the abusing spouse.
Are you ready to apply for a VAWA green card? The experienced immigration attorneys at JLB Law Group are here to help!
Who is Eligible to Get a VAWA Green Card?
As the spouse of a US resident or citizen abuser, you may qualify for VAWA. You may also qualify for VAWA if you are the parent of a US citizen child over age 21 and your child has mistreated you.Even though VAWA has the word 'women' in it, men may still apply for relief under VAWA. Even if you are not the one being abused but are the parent of children that are being mistreated by a US citizen spouse, you may petition under VAWA.
Related: Immigration Series Part One
VAWA Eligibility Requirements
With a few exceptions, you must live in the US.
You must be the child, parent, or spouse of an abuser.
Your abuser must be a permanent resident or US 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.
Four Steps to Getting a VAWA Visa
The process to obtain a VAWA green card takes time, and it has different requirements depending on your relationship with the abuser. Consulting a trusted immigration attorney is one of the best ways to help get the outcome you desire; the process can get confusing, and having a professional on your side can help reduce the chance of making mistakes that lead to a delay or denial of your application. Here are the steps required to get a VAWA visa:
Step One: VAWA Green Card Petition
When you petition for a family-based immigration visa, a permanent resident or US citizen prepares the petition for the beneficiary using Form I-130 from USCIS (the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.) For a self-petitioner applying for a VAWA green card, they file on their own behalf using Form I-360.
In either case, the applicant must include evidence that shows proof of marriage, birth certificates, and citizenship status. VAWA petitioners must also include proof of abuse and legitimacy of their marriage. Because of the extra evidence needed, this step can take a significant amount of time.
Relatives of lawful residents will submit their petition to the USCIS and must wait to continue the process. Relatives of US citizens can combine this step with their application for status adjustment (step four.)
Step Two: Submitting the Petition
After the USCIS receives your forms for a visa petition, it takes around 30 days for them to issue you an I-797, which is a notice that they have received your application. The notice will include a receipt number that you can use to track your application status, and you can see approximately how long it will take for it to be either approved or denied.
Once the USCIS approves your petition, they will issue you an approval notice. This notice does not give you legal status in the US yet; it means that the first step has been completed, and now you must wait for a priority date to continue.
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. These decisions get granted for a limited time; you may have to renew it multiple times while waiting to get your green card. An immigration attorney can help you with this process.
Step Three: Priority Date
Because there are annual limits on visas for family members of lawful residents, it may take a little while for one to become available to you. They are usually given on a first-come, first-serve basis, and you can track your place on the list with the priority date on your notice of action.
You must 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 lawful resident spouse or child, rather than USC..
Related: Immigration Series Part Two
Step Four: Adjustment of Status
To file for adjustment of status and complete your visa application, you’ll have to file Form I-485 with the USCIS. Once you submit this application, you are now authorized to stay in the US until a visa decision has been made, and you can apply to receive a work permit that will last until you get your green card.
Within the next few months, expect to have an interview at the 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.
How Long Does it Take to Get a VAWA Green Card?
The US immigration laws and regulations don’t give the USCIS a time limit to make decisions on an application.VAWA cases, based on relationship to USC are currently taking roughly 2 years but processing times always vary.
For the best chances of a successful and quick outcome, consult with an experienced immigration attorney.
How We Can Help You Get a VAWA Green Card
Each case is unique, and it may be difficult to figure out if you are eligible or which option is best for you. The first step you may want to take is to talk to an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your specific case and help you navigate through the petition safely. We are here to help you through this difficult time and fix your papers.
Are you ready to get started with your VAWA application? Get in touch with the experienced immigration attorneys at JLB Law Group today!
Related: Immigration Series Part Three
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