VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) is a program for battered noncitizens whose close relatives or spouse is U.S citizens or lawful permanent residents (green card holder). The abused immigrant whether they are a spouse, parent, or a child can “self-petition” without involving the abuser. This article will discuss how to apply for an adjustment of status through VAWA.
Safety and Privacy Concerns
If you are a victim seeking help, it's best to take caution by using a private browser, a private phone line, or an internet service to prevent your abuser from accessing or monitoring them. Also, be aware of other forms of technology such as home cameras, or trackers on phones or cars. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 or visit National Domestic Violence Hotline or RAINN for safe web browsing.
How to Get a Green Card Through VAWA
There are two steps in order for a recipient to qualify for a VAWA green card, also known as an adjustment of status.
Step 1: You will need to file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant and include supporting evidence (that will be discussed in the next section) to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Step 2: Once your VAWA petition is approved, you can move forward by completing and filing Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. For this form, you will also need supporting evidence. Once Form I-485 is approved, you will be issued a green card (lawful permanent residence). If you have any derivative children involved in your case, they may also be eligible to apply for a green card.
It is recommended that before you begin your applications, contact a VAWA immigration attorney to help you navigate through the process. If you are unsure if you need an immigration lawyer to apply for VAWA, please read our post on this topic.
Documents Required for Adjustment of Status Through VAWA
Form I-360 and Form I-485 both require specific evidence and documentation. Listed below is an outline of documents for both.
Form I-360 Required Documents
- Any form of government-issued identification (passport, birth certificate, etc).
- Evidence of the relationship between you and the applicant. For example a marriage certificate, a divorce decree, a birth certificate, or an affidavit. If you are or were married, you will need to prove the marriage was done in good faith (bona fide) and not for immigration or other fraudulent reasons.
- Evidence your abuser is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (a green card holder).
- A written statement describing the relationship between you and your abuser. You will need to include details of the abuse meaning the type of abuse you endured. This can include but not limited to physical abuse, sexual violence, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, threats, intimidation, isolation and degradation. If you have images of this abuse, it would be in your best interest to include them in your application.
- Proof you live/lived in the U.S with your abuser
- Have evidence that you have “good moral character'' meaning that you don't have a criminal background or were/are involved in any crimes. You may also include an affidavit for further proof.
- Prove that you currently live in the United States
If you are currently not in the United States, you may still apply as long as your abuser is an employee of the U.S government or armed services, or if the abuse took place within the U.S. at some point.
Form I-485 Required Documents
When your Form I-360 is approved, you will need to include a copy with the completed and filed Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status. In addition, you will need to have the documents listed below:
- A copy of Form I-797, Approval Notice or Receipt, for your Form I-360 (does not apply if you are filing Form I-360 & Form I-485 together)
- Two passport-style photographs
- A copy of any government-issued ID with a picture
- A copy of your birth certificate (translated into English if it’s in another language)
- Form I-693, report of medical examination and vaccination record
- A copy of your passport page with a nonimmigrant visa (if applicable)
- A copy of your passport page with an admissions stamp by a USCIS officer (if applicable)
- A copy of your I-94 or other proof of U.S. lawful entry
- Certified Police and Court Records of Criminal Charges, Arrests, or Convictions
- Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if applicable)
For more information on additional documents visit the USCIS website Green Card for VAWA Self-Petitioner.
Where to Submit your Adjustment of Status Application
If you are trying to apply for adjustment of status through VAWA, You will need to submit your I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status, along with other forms and documents by mail to a central office (visit Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). In addition, you will also need to include fees with the application.
Once your application is received it will be forwarded to a USCIS field office and they will contact you to schedule an interview; your abuser will not be required to attend.
VAWA Adjustment of Status Processing Time
VAWA adjustment of status processing times vary by case, usually anywhere from 10 to 22 month and can be different based on each service center. However, you can find out by visiting the USCIS Processing Time Information website. Locate the field office nearest you and follow the next steps.
To avoid delays in processing, it's best to have an immigration attorney review your documents and assist you with the entire process. If any forms or required documents are missing or not completed, your application will be placed on hold and delayed for processing.
Adjustment Of Status Through VAWA FAQs
Is VAWA a Green Card?
No, VAWA is not a green card, but it is a way for battered immigrants to obtain a green card without their abuser’s knowledge or consent. After your VAWA self-petition has been approved by USCIS, you can apply for an adjustment of status (a green card).
Can I Get a Work Permit with VAWA?
Once your VAWA self-petition has been approved, USCIS will also give you an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) and with that, you can legally work anywhere in the United States.
Can I File VAWA and Adjustment of Status Together?
Generally, this is a two-step process by first filing a VAWA self-petition and second by filing the application for adjustment of status (after the VAWA application is approved).