The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides a lawful immigration route for victims of domestic abuse or cruelty without relying on their abusers to file immigration paperwork for them to obtain lawful status. This Act was enacted in 1994s, and it has helped thousands of individuals. VAWA has changed how victims in abusive situations can get legal status without the control or participation of the abuser. If you need help applying for a VAWA petition, there are a few things to know concerning your application.
Do you need help with your immigration application? At Brudner Law, we can help you take the following steps toward becoming an American citizen.
In the past, the processing times for USCIS's VAWA have varied. The waiting time can take two years or more for many cases involving self-petitions. In May 2021, the USCIS started approving applications from the previous two years. You can find updated processing times on the USCIS website. Unfortunately, it can take a long time to review a self-petition. With that in mind, you must make sure your mailing address is up-to-date while processing the petition.
After your attorney files a self-petition on your behalf, the USCIS will send you an official receipt. The receipt will prove that the USCIS has accepted your application. Many applicants in abusive relationships choose to give their address to their lawyers instead of their abusers to avoid alerting the individual to the application. The USCIS may also ask you for more information during this time period.
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If the USCIS believes you have met all the requirements and the information is accurate, you will be issued an "establishment of prima facie case" notification. This means that USCIS has preliminarily reviewed your packet and determined that all the required evidence is included.
The average processing time for a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) application is approximately 26 months, with some cases taking over 2.5 years to approve. It's important to note that a green card application filed concurrently with a VAWA petition takes approximately one year longer than the VAWA case itself. Some applicants can expect wait times totaling over three years.
Applicants for VAWA status should expect to wait at least two years for approval. However, those who also file for a concurrent green card can expect to receive work permits and travel authorizations within six months. Green card interviews typically take between 24 and 30 months to be scheduled, though applicants with criminal records or other ineligibilities may face longer waits. A skilled immigration attorney can help you determine whether you are eligible to apply concurrently or whether it's better to pursue your green card first and then apply for VAWA.
Anyone who is or has been a victim of any domestic violence and has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member, may be able to self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). To qualify, you must be able to demonstrate your relationship with the abuser, as well as that you have suffered extreme cruelty or battery from the abuser. While the VAWA title includes "women," men can also petition for themselves under VAWA. They will need to demonstrate the same requirements listed above. Additionally, a spouse in a same-sex relationship is also allowed to self-petition for VAWA.
If you are filing a VAWA self-petition as the child of an abuser, you can include your children under 21 and unmarried in the petition. If you are filing as the parent of an abusive child, your child must be at least 21 years old and a U.S. citizen. Also, if your spouse is abusive and he or she is the abuser in question, you can include your children under 21 and unmarried in the petition.
You can request permission to work while you are waiting for your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to be approved by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
If you must leave the United States on a temporary basis on a pending Form I-485, you will have to file for Advance Parole by filing form I-131. If you have a pending Form I-485 and leave the United States without obtaining an advance parole document, the USCIS could determine that you have abandoned your application.
There is no interview for VAWA approval. Once USCIS approves your I-360 self-petition, they can adjudicate your request to adjust your status to a lawful permanent address. You will be required to appear for your interview at your local USCIS district office. At this time, you should be questioned only about eligibility for adjustment of status, not your VAWA status. The officer should not ask you about matters related to the I-360 petition because USCIS has already made that decision. Sometimes, USCIS district officers may want to re-adjudicate I-360 petitions all over again. Therefore, you will want to have an inexperienced attorney present at the interview. With that, the lawyer can ensure the interview stays on topic and does not deviate to other matters.
Victims of abuse may already know the challenges of living with an abuser. Working with a reputable and experienced immigration attorney can help the victim secure a green card without relying on the abuser to petition for them. A skilled immigration attorney will walk the victim through the VAWA process with compassionate representation.
Need help with your VAWA application? At Brudner Law, we can help you through this process. Schedule a consultation today!