VAWA, more commonly known as violence against women act, is a viable way for spouses, parents, and children to petition for lawful status in the United States. What any immigration attorney will explain is that this act gives abused spouses and children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who are living in the U.S. a procedural mechanism by which to “self-petition” for lawful permanent resident status, ultimately an U.S. green card.
How does VAWA work?
This mechanism acts as a substitute for the usual process, in which the immigrant must rely on participation by the U.S. spouse or parent. VAWA effectively cuts the abuser out of the process and limits his or her control over the immigrant.
What are the VAWA benefits?
Aside from removing oneself from an abusive and dangerous situation, there are various other benefits that come associated with a VAWA Visa. For one, it will empower a person to thrive outside of an abusive relationship. More often than not, immigrants do not act on abuse for fear of being deported.
The benefitting person will additionally be able to enjoy government benefits. This can come in the form of medical expense assistance, food stamps, and various other forms of monetary aid. An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to inform you more about the benefits offered in your area.
What are the steps associated with the process?
The process involves many of the same steps as applying for any family-based green card. However, it can take a little longer. It will also be different for immediate relatives, that is spouses and children of U.S. citizens
- Putting Together The Visa Petition: A self-petitioner under VAWA prepares a petition on his or her own behalf, but using USCIS Form I-360. You should include supporting evidence, such as a marriage or birth certificate and proof of the U.S. citizen or LPR’s status. However, because the self-petitioner has to prove the abuse as well as the legitimacy of the marriage, gathering all the required evidence might take longer.
- Submitting Visa Petition to USCIS: Upon receipt of your I-360 visa petition, USCIS will issue an I-797 Notice of Action “Receipt Notice.” This contains a receipt number as well as a Priority Date. The Priority Date is generally the date that the petition is received. Once the petition is approved, USCIS issues an I-797 Notice of Action “Approval Notice.”
- Waiting for Priority Date to Become Current. As any experienced attorney will explain, the wait can sometimes take a few years, for a visa number to become available. Until your priority date is current, you are not yet eligible to adjust your status on Form I-485.
- Filing for Adjustment of Status. Within a period of months, you will be called into a USCIS office for an interview, at which time you will hopefully be approved for LPR status. Unlike regular family cases, your abusive spouse or parent will not be required to accompany you to that interview.
The easiest way to get your VAWA Visa is to work with an attorney to help you with the process. They will help provide you with the proper advice and ensure that you get through each step with little if any hassle. If however you are planning on attempting to attain the visa on your own, there is a process to do so.