Updated: 5/30/2017

What Is VAWA?

vawa I-360VAWA stands for “violence against women act” and it is a law that is suppose to protect immigrants from abuse by their petitioners.

It allows you to self-petition to gain permanent resident status without the knowledge of the US citizen or permanent resident abuser. VAWA provisions apply to both men and women equally and it can also protect parents, children from the abuser as well.

  • Spouse:
    • You can file for yourself if you are, or were, the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
    • You are also able file as an abused spouse if your child has been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse.
    • You can also include on your petition your unmarried children who are under 21 if they have not filed for themselves.
  • Parent:
    • You may file if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen, and you have been abused by your U.S. citizen son or daughter.
  • Child:
    • You may file for yourself if you are an abused child under 21, unmarried and have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent.
    • Your children may also be included on your petition.
    • You may also file for yourself as a child after age 21 but before age 25 if you can demonstrate that the abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing.

The US citizen/PR will not be notified when you file for VAWA.

Who Is Eligible For VAWA?

Eligibility Requirements for a Spouse

  • You qualify to file for VAWA if:
    • You are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser
    • Your marriage to the abuser was terminated by death or a divorce (related to the abuse) within the 2 years prior to filing your petition, or
    • Your spouse lost or renounced citizenship or permanent resident status within the 2 years prior to filing your petition due to an incident of domestic violence
    • You believed that you were legally married to your abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse but the marriage was not legitimate solely because of the bigamy of your abusive spouse.
  • What is considered battery/extreme cruelty:
    • You have been physically abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse
    • Your child has been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse.
  • You entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for immigration benefits (need to have proof).
  • You have lived with your spouse (lived in the same home).
  • You are a person of good moral character.

Eligibility Requirements for a Child

  • Qualifying parent/child relationship:
    • You are the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser
    • You are the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser who lost citizenship or lawful permanent resident status due to an incident of domestic violence.
  • You have suffered battery/extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent.
  • You have resided with your abusive parent (in the same home).
  • You are a person of good moral character; a child less than 14 years of age is presumed to be a person of good moral character.

Eligibility Requirements for a Parent

  • Qualifying parent/son or daughter relationship:
    • You are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who is at least 21 years of age when the self-petition is filed
    • You are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who lost or renounced citizenship status related to an incident of domestic violence, or
    • you are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who was at least 21 years of age and who died within 2 years prior to filing the self-petition.
  • You have suffered battery or extreme cruelty by your U.S. citizen son or daughter.
  • You have lived with the abusive son or daughter (in the same home).
  • You are a person of good moral character.

Forms To File I-360 Petition (Step 1)

I-360 Self-Petition for VAWA [download]

This form is used to self-petition due to abuse inflicted by your US citizen or permanent resident relative.

G-1145 (optional) E-Notification of Application Acceptance [download]

This form is used if you wish to receive electronic notification (e-Notification) that your application has been accepted.

***I’d recommend also filing for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) at the same time to speed up the process of getting a green card. As soon as the I-360 is approved, USCIS will begin processing the I-485.

How To Assemble The I-360 Packet

Payment: There is no fee if you are filing for VAWA as an abused spouse, child or parent.

Cover Letter: Should include a description of what your are petitioning for (I-360), a table of contents (list everything in the packet). If you need additional room to explain your case, attach a separate sheet. Make sure to sign and date the cover sheet. [download]

Form I-360: Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant [download]

One passport-type photo of the Non-US Citizen (self-petitioner). Write the full name on the back. Place in a plastic bag and label the bag “Photo of “.

Marriage Certificate if you are still married or the divorce decree. This is used as proof of a valid marriage.

US Citizen Spouse’s Current Status with any of the following documents:

  • copy of their birth certificate
  • copy of their permanent resident card
  • copy of their passport

**If you don’t have any of these and your spouse is a green card holder or has naturalized, USCIS can look them up in their system.

Supporting Evidence For Your Case (see list below)

Evidence To Include With I-360

Evidence of a Shared Home

  • employment records,
  • utility receipts,
  • school records,
  • hospital or medical records,
  • birth certificates of children,
  • mortgages,
  • rental records,
  • insurance policies
  • affidavits from friends and family

Evidence of Abuse

  • reports and affidavits from police
  • court records of abuse
  • medical records of abuse
  • reports from school officials,
  • reports from social workers
  • order of protection

Proof of Good Moral Character such as State-issued criminal background check and police clearance from all countries you lived in for more than 6 months in the last 3 years.

Evidence of Extreme Hardship

  • affidavits,
  • birth certificates of children,
  • medical reports,
  • other relevant credible evidence of the extreme hardship

Evidence of Good Faith Marriage

  • insurance policies,
  • property leases,
  • income tax forms, or
  • bank accounts;
  • testimony or other evidence regarding your courtship,
  • wedding ceremony,
  • shared residence,
  • experiences showing that your marriage was entered in good faith.

The more evidence you can provide, the better your chances of getting approved.

Where to Send The I-360 Petition

USCIS Vermont Service Center

For U.S. Postal Service and Express mail and courier deliveries:

USCIS
Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden Street
St. Albans, VT 05479-0001

You are allowed to also file for I-485 Adjustment of Status at the same time as the I-360 petition if you currently do not have a green card (for example: you arrived on a K-1 visa but have not adjusted your status yet)

What Happens After You File I-360

Step 1: Acceptance and Review

Once Form I-360 has been accepted, it will be checked for completeness, including submission of the required initial evidence. If you do not completely fill out the form, or file it without required initial evidence, you will not
establish a basis for eligibility, and you may be denied.

Prima Facie

If you are a self-petitioning spouse or child and you meet all filing requirements, you will receive a notice (Prima Facie Determination Notice) valid for 150 days that you can present to government agencies that provide certain public benefits to certain victims of domestic violence.

Step 2: Request for Evidence and Interview

You may be requested for more information or evidence (RFE), or requested to appear at a USCIS office for an interview. You may also be asked to submit the originals of any copy. USCIS will return these originals when they are no longer required.

Step 3: Final Decision

If you establish that you are eligible for the requested classification (abused relative), your petition will be approved. You will then be able to apply for adjustment to permanent resident status.

If you do not establish eligibility, your petition will be denied. You may then be placed in removal proceedings (deportation). You can appeal this decision or reapply for VAWA if you have stronger evidence. You will be notified of this decision in writing.

Employment

If you have an approved Form I-360, you are eligible to apply to work in the United States.  In addition, if you have an approved Form I-360 and have been placed in deferred action, you are eligible to apply to work in the United States.

To apply to work in the United States, you must file the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with the Vermont Service Center.

Always respond to any request for evidence quickly, or your petition can be denied due to abandonment.

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