January 3, 2023

VAWA Processing Time - Is It Worth it?

Determining if the wait for VAWA processing is worth it depends on personal circumstances and the potential benefits, like independence and legal status. 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 1994 and 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. 

While processing generally takes around 26 months and can extend beyond 2.5 years, concurrent green card filers might receive work permits and travel authorizations within six months. However, the total wait can exceed three years. Assessing your situation and consulting a skilled immigration attorney is essential for personalized guidance. If you need help applying for a VAWA petition, there are a few things to know concerning your application.

How Long Does VAWA Take To Be Approved?

The waiting time can take two years or more for many cases involving self-petitions. In the past, the processing times for USCIS's VAWA have varied. 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, 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 period.

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. 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 filing 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.

the proper documentation is needed to file this petition

Who Is Eligible To File a VAWA I-360 Petition?

Anyone who is or has been a victim of extreme cruetly and/or abuse by 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 exact 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.

Can I Work or Travel While Waiting for Approval on a VAWA Application?

You can request permission to work while 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 temporarily on a pending Form I-485, you must 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.

an experienced attorney can help prepare you for any interviews

Is There an Interview for VAWA Approval?

There is no interview for VAWA approval. Once USCIS approves your I-360 self-petition, they will next adjudicate your request to adjust your status to a lawful permanent address if you also filed an adjustment of status..
The Adjustment of Status adjudication generally will require you to appear for an 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 an inexperienced attorney to present at the interview. With that, the lawyer can ensure the interview stays on topic and does not deviate to other matters.

Speak To an Immigration Attorney

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.

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