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 relying on their abuser to petition them.
In an ordinary immigration case, the U.S. citizen spouse has to file a petition with USCIS in order for the foreign born spouse to be able to obtain permanent residency. In relationships involving domestic violence, however, the participation of the U.S. Citizen spouse is often used as a form of abuse to gain power and control over the victim’s immigration status. For that reason, the U.S. 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 lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen who has abused you, you may qualify for VAWA. You may also qualify for VAWA if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen child over age 21 and your child has mistreated you to a level that rises to that deemed to be abuse or extreme cruelty. Even though VAWA has the word 'women' in it, men may still apply for relief under VAWA. In fact, recently we have been able to help more men apply for VAWA than women!
Even if you are not the one being abused but are the parent of children that are being severely mistreated, to the requisite level required to prove abuse for VAWA by a U.S. citizen spouse, then you may petition under VAWA.
Related: Immigration Series Part One
VAWA Eligibility Requirements
With a few exceptions, you must live in the U.S.
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.
Four Steps to Getting a Green Card on the Basis of VAWA
The process to obtain a VAWA green card takes time, and while the requirements are fairly similar no matter what your relationship with the abuser is, there may be slight variations in what will constitute the best proof for your particular case. Consulting a trusted immigration attorney is one of the best ways to ensure you have put together the best possible case to submit to Immigration; the process can become 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 Green Card:
Step One: VAWA Self-Petition
When you petition for a family-based immigration visa, a permanent resident or U.S. citizen prepares the petition for the beneficiary using Form I-130 from USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.) For a self-petitioner applying for a VAWA green card, the victim will file on their own behalf using Form I-360.
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 USCIS and must wait to continue the process. Relatives of U.S. citizens can combine this step with their application for adjustment of status (step four.)
Step Two: What Happens After Submission
After USCIS receives your VAWA self-petition, it takes around 30 days for the government to issue you a receipt notice, which is sometimes called an I-797 notice, acknowledging they have received your application. The notice will include a receipt number that you can use to track your application status.
If USCIS approves your petition, they will issue you an approval notice. An approval is great news! Now you may be able to take advantage of some public benefits and protections, as well as obtain authorization to work in the US. 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 USCIS. Within the next few months, expect to have an interview at 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 U.S. immigration laws and regulations do not give USCIS a time limit to make decisions on an application.VAWA cases, based on relationship to a U.S. citizen, are currently taking roughly 2 years to complete, though processing times always vary.
To ensure you are prepared with the strongest case possible, consult with an experienced immigration attorney.
How We Can Help You Apply For 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 process safely.
We are here to help you through this difficult time and to try to 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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