Barrera Legal Group can help with applying for VAWA based protection and the resulting Green Card
Through the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) and its later reauthorizations, noncitizens who have been abused by U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident relatives may petition the United States Citizen and Immigration Service, (USCIS) what is known as a VAWA self petition which if approved will allow the noncitizen to then apply for a green card.
VAWA Qualifying Family Members
A Spouse of an abusive U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident,
A Parent of a child abused by a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident Spouse.
Parents of an abusive U.S. Citizen,
Unmarried Children younger than 21 years of age of an abusive U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident Parent.
Unmarried Children younger than 21 years of age can also be included in an abused parent's self petition that has suffered abuse by a spouse as well.
Note that a child who is 21 years of age can still file a self-petition before turning age 25 if the child can demonstrate that the abuse caused the delay in filing.
VAWA Eligibility Requirements
A qualifying relationship which in the case of a spouse or former spouse of an abusive U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident, the application must be filed while:
The noncitizen is still married to the abusive U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident spouse.
The marriage with the abusive U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident spouse was terminated within 2 years prior to filing the petition.
The abusive spouse lost or renounced citizenship or permanent resident status within the 2 years prior to filing the petition because of an incident of domestic violence.
The noncitizen self petitioner believed that there was a legal marriage to the abusive spouse where the marriage was not legitimate because of bigamy by the abusive spouse.
A qualifying relationship of a child of an abusive U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident.
A qualifying relationship of a Parent of an abusive U.S. citizen son or daughter 21 years of age or older.
The abused noncitizen self petitioner was subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by the abusive U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident during the qualifying relationship.
The abused noncitizen self petitioner resides or had resided with the abusive relative and the abused noncitizen self petitioner is a person of good moral character.
VAWA Application Process
First Step-Barrera Legal Group can help with filing of the VAWA I-360 Immigrant Petition with USCIS.
The first step in the VAWA Process is to have the qualifying self petitioner submit the initial petition known as the I-360 petition with USCIS. This petition will include documents establishing the qualifying relationship as well as documentation demonstrating the abuse suffered by the self petitioner and any physical or psychological trauma suffered by the self petitioner.
If the form I-360 is approved, USCIS may consider the self petitioner for deferred action on a case-by-case basis. Deferred action if granted, will also provide the self petitioner, protection from potential removal from the United States. We discuss removal proceedings here. Finally, the I-360 approval will also lead to employment authorization.
Second Step in the VAWA Green Card Process -Barrera Legal Group can help with submitting form I-485 before USCIS if the self petitioner is present in the United States.
Filing of Form I-485
Upon processing and approval of the initial I-360 immigration petition with USCIS, if the self petitioner was a victim of an immediate family member such as U.S. Citizen Spouse, U.S. Citizen parent or a U.S. Citizen son or daughter 21 years or older, the self petitioner can now submit the form I-485 before USCIS which is the last application required to complete the filing of the green card through the family based adjustment of status process. The form I-485 can in fact be filed together with the initial I-360 petition where both forms will be processed at the same time in these immediate family member cases.
However, in cases where the relative is a legal permanent resident, the I-485 may only be filed when the filing date of the I-360 also known as the priority date is current where USCIS is processing I-485 applications with immigration petitions filed on or before the priority date published by the Department of State in what is called the Visa Bulletin. Barrera Legal Group discusses priority dates and the visa bulletin here.
Like immediate relative cases if the initial immigration petition, form I-360 has a priority date that is current, the immigration petition and form I-485 can be filed concurrently where both applications will be processed at the same time.
Civil documents in support of the application are also filed with the application which consist of biographical type documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and passports as well as required documents proving that a relationship is real in marriage-based family cases.
Finally, a medical exam must also be submitted with the application which is performed by an authorized physician in the United States.
Almost all family based adjustment of status applications will also allow for the noncitizen to apply for work authorization also known as an employment authorization document, by submitting form I-765 and an application for a travel authorization document, by submitting form I-131 with the adjustment of status application.
After all USCIS forms and supporting documents are submitted, the case will be transferred to a local USCIS field office where the case will be scheduled for fingerprinting of the beneficiary. After fingerprinting, a USCIS officer will be reviewing the application and performing a background check to then determine if any other information or documents are required, or if an interview is required.
Second Step in VAWA Based Consular Processing-Barrera Legal Group can help with applying for the Immigrant Visa in Consular Processing Cases.
If the self petitioner is outside the United States, upon processing and approval of the initial immigration petition, I-360 with USCIS, USCIS notifies the Department of State of the approval. However, just as when filing the I-485 application with USCIS, the Department of State will only proceed with the case when the filing date also known as the priority date on the initial immigration petition is current where the Department of State is processing immigrant visa applications with immigration petitions filed on or before the priority date published by the Department of State in what is called the Visa Bulletin. Barrera Legal Group discusses priority dates and the visa bulletin here.
Once the priority date is current, or if the case has a petitioner who is an immediate relative, the case is then taken by a Department of State sub-office, known as the National Visa Center or the NVC. The NVC will then create a case for the noncitizen beneficiary where the noncitizen can proceed to apply for the immigrant visa using the NVC’s system known as the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). Once the case is created in the CEAC, the noncitizen and petitioner will be instructed to pay the Immigrant visa application fees.
The immigrant visa is the travel authorization document that will be stamped in the beneficiary’s passport to allow the beneficiary to enter the United States to come and live in the United States as a legal permanent resident.
After the fees are paid, the applicant will be able to fill in the online application known as the DS-260 and upload what are known as the civil documents in support of the family based consular processing application to the CEAC system. Civil documents are typically biographical type documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and passports as well as required documents proving that a relationship is real.
Barrera Legal Group can help you with submitting the Immigrant Visa Application for consular processing.
Before the consular processing interview, the noncitizen beneficiary and any derivative applicant are required to schedule a medical appointment with an authorized physician in the country where the interview will take place. This exam must be with an embassy-approved doctor, also referred to as the Panel Physician
Once all required documents have been uploaded and the DS-260 has been completed, the NVC will begin to review the application and supporting documents to determine whether the application is documentarily complete to schedule the immigrant visa interview at the consulate post. Otherwise, if the application is considered to be deficient, the NVC will notify to provide additional information or correct documents.
If the application is determined to be complete and the interview date is scheduled, the case will then be sent from the NVC to the Consular Post for the review and final decision by a consular officer.
If the case is approved, the officer will send a notice confirming approval through the mail, followed by the actual green card.
Once the beneficiary receives the green card, there are no further steps, other than to wait for the necessary period of time to consider applying for naturalization.
Consular Processing Cases:
If the case is approved in the family based consular processing case, the officer will provide instructions on when the Passport and Visa will be returned or ready for pickup after the interview.
Once the beneficiary receives the passport and visa, he must travel to the United States no later than the visa expiration date printed on the visa. The noncitizen must also pay a fee to have USCIS generate the actual green card to mail to the beneficiary after the beneficiary enters the United States with the immigrant visa.
Once the beneficiary enters the United States, he will be processed by Customs and Border Protection where upon entry into the United States, the beneficiary is now considered a lawful permanent resident or a green card holder. There will be no further steps to take other than to wait for the green card to arrive in the mail.