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VAWA Processing Time

VAWA Processing Time

By Brian in Immigration | VAWA | on 2024-01-31 07:03:02

VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) immigration petitions take two years and two months to process on average. Sometimes, it takes up to two years and six months to process. If you file a green card application at the same time as the VAWA petition, the processing time can take an additional 12 months. All in all, some VAWA petitioners will wait 36 months until their cases are fully processed. Updated VAWA processing times are available on the USCIS website. 


What Is the Violence Against Women Act?

Undocumented immigrants are generally unwilling to notify the police if they’ve been the victim of a crime because they fear they will be deported. Many will even avoid hospitals, airports, and school authority figures out of this fear. Unfortunately, because of this, some realize that undocumented immigrants are “the perfect victims” of theft, abuse, and violence. For example, employers have been paying undocumented workers less than minimum wage without benefits for generations.


Finally, in 1994, Congress took a stand against one of the most heinous violations undocumented women were swallowing in silence—domestic violence. If you have relatives who are lawful permanent residents/citizens and you become the victim of domestic violence, you are eligible to self-petition for lawful status under VAWA. You do not need the perpetrator to be involved. Recently, Congress expanded the qualified forms of violence and abuse via the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2022


Currently, for the purposes of VAWA, “violence against women” refers to:

  • child abuse and neglect
  • sexual assault (any conduct that meets the federal definition of sexual abuse)
  • domestic violence
  • elder abuse
  • dating violence
  • intimate partner violence
  • stalking 
  • financial abuse (controlling the victim’s ability to use, acquire, and maintain economic resources)
  • a pattern of coercive behavior attempting to gain or maintain power and control over the victim (psychological, verbal, or technological abuse that may or may not constitute criminal behavior)
  • threatened abuse (whether it was carried out or not) 


What About Victims Who Aren’t Women?

Despite its name, VAWA is not age or gender specific. It protects an expansive group of victims: 

  • transgender people
  • men
  • girls
  • boys
  • abused spouses
  • minor children of citizens/lawful permanent residents
  • unmarried children abused by citizens/lawful permanent resident parents or step-parents
  • abused parents of U.S. citizens


During your VAWA Processing Wait Time

It is imperative that you keep your contact information up-to-date during your petition processing time. You can also simply list your immigration attorney’s address. USCIS may contact you for further information at any point.


Use Form I-485 and I-765 to request legal permission to work while your petition is processing. If you need to briefly leave the United States during your processing time, you can also use Form I-485 so that USCIS knows you have not abandoned your petition.


What Is VAWA Self-Petition?


A VAWA self-petition is applying for a green card through VAWA without going through another petitioner. A VAWA self-petitioner undertakes two steps: filing a self-petition with documents to support the petition and applying for adjustment of status.


Applicants of self-petition need to submit Form I-360, which is a petition for a special immigrant, widow (er), or Amerasian. Usually, the form 1-360 comes with a filing fee; however, you won’t need to pay if you’re an abuse victim.


After submitting your self-petition, you’ll need to wait for the USCIS  to process your request. It helps to have the support of a VAWA attorney. 

Eligibility for VAWA

Based on the person submitting a petition for VAWA, there are different eligibility requirements. 


The requirements vary if you’re a spouse, child, or parent of an abusive LPR or U.S. citizen.

Eligibility Requirements for Spouses

Spouses and former spouses of abusers are allowed to self-petition for VAWA benefits. They are permitted to petition with their children who are below 21 years and unmarried. 


If you’re a spouse or former spouse of an abusive U.S citizen or LPR and want to obtain LPR status or citizenship, you must meet the following requirements:


  • You’re married to an LPR or U.S citizen who is abusive and didn’t marry for the purpose of obtaining U.S citizenship or LPR status.
  • Your marriage to the abuser ended due to death or divorce in the last two years.
  • You hold evidence that supports your claim that the abuser harmed you or your children.
  • You lived with your spouse or former spouse
  • You have a clean criminal record that proves sound moral character


Despite your marriage ending in divorce, you still need to prove that the marriage was legally valid. 


Eligibility Requirements for Children

Some children may need to file a self-petition for VAWA independently under specific circumstances. Usually, children have similar requirements as other people petitioning for VAWA.


Some requirements that children share with spouses include:


  • Living with the abuser
  • A child must prove they suffered battery or extreme cruelty at the hands of the abuser.
  • The child should also be unmarried and below 21 years unless they successfully demonstrate the inability to petition for VAWA earlier by the age of 25.
  • The applicant should also demonstrate to be a child of a U.S. citizen, LPR, or repatriated immigrant because of a criminal charge or pending conviction regarding domestic violence.


However, some requirements depend on the child’s age. For instance, children 13 years and younger don’t need to prove they possess good moral character. Nonetheless, children aged 14-21 years must demonstrate a clean criminal record. 

Requirements for Parents

Parents of abusive LPR, U.S. citizens, or repatriated citizens will require similar requirements to spouses and children. 


For instance, parents of abusive children who want to apply for VAWA must prove they lived with the abusive child and experienced extreme cruelty or battery at the hands of the abuser and demonstrate a clean criminal record.


Applicants who meet their respective eligibility criteria allow children, spouses, and parents of abusive individuals to gain a seamless route to citizenship or LPR without involving the abusive party.


We Are Compassionate, Skilled Austin VAWA Lawyers

  1. Sparks Law has handled a myriad of VAWA petitions. We are a full-service Austin VAWA attorney service, dealing with all types of immigration cases, from asylum to DACA. If you believe you qualify for a VAWA petition, please contact us for a free consultation. Hablamos español.

Julie Sparks

Julie Sparks is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Immigration and Nationality Law, one of a few such attorneys in Texas. After 15 years of practice in this field, she has represented immigrants from more than 70 different countries.

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