I-360 VAWA Processing Timeline 2017
Imagine this: you arrive in the United States to start a new life with your American spouse. You have so many hopes and dreams of starting a family, owning a beautiful home, and working a job you love.
Then, your spouse begins to verbally and physically abuse you and treats you like property instead of a human being. This story is all too common for many immigrants who go on to file the I-360 VAWA application.
They feel hopeless and can’t see a way out of the marriage without sacrificing their chance to stay in the United States.
This post will go over some of the options you have to stay in the U.S. with legal status without the help of your abusive spouse. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to apply for I-360 VAWA and the evidence you should include.
2017 VAWA Timeline To Get A Green Card?
I’m sure you are wondering how long the VAWA process takes to complete. It definitely varies depending on the circumstances of your case, but generally it’s approved within a year of filing I-360.
VAWA was created to ensure that spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens are not forced to stay in an abusive situation for fear of immigration consequences. Although this law is called “violence against women act”, it’s actually used by both men and women to obtain a green card.
Kenna accepted the engagement offer of Jacob (a US citizen) in Spain and they quickly applied for the I-129F petition. After a year, Kenna was able to move to the U.S. to start her new life with Jacob. 6 weeks later, Jacob began to be verbally abusive towards her and refused to file adjustment of status.
Because Kenna loved him, she decided to stay without status to keep your marriage together. The verbal abuse turned into physical abuse months later and Kenna felt helpless as she couldn’t work and had no money to leave him. She finally had enough and left Jacob to seek shelter at a church.
In the case above, Kenna will need to apply for I-360 (VAWA self-petition), I-485 (adjustment of status) and I-765 (work authorization).
Below is the 2017 VAWA timeline and what you can expect each step of the process to be completed.
04/21/2016: Application Packet sent out (I-765, I-360, I-485)
04/27/2016: Received first notice of action (NOA1) from USCIS that it’s been received
05/12/2016: EAD (I-765) approved
05/18/2016: EAD mailed to applicant
05/25/2016: EAD received by applicant
12/07/2016: Text message SMS and email sent I-360 has been approved
12/14/2016: I-360 approval notice
02/11/2017: Interview appointment etter for I-485
03/09/2017: I-485 interview date
04/08/2017: Text message SMS and email I-485 has been approved
04/13/2017: I-485 approval notice
04/14/2017: Green card received by applicant
Can I Work Before VAWA Is Approved?
Leaving an abusive marriage won’t be easy without money to support yourself. Many VAWA applicants seek the help of friends, family or local shelters while they wait for the green card or work permit approval.
Without a green card, you can’t work. This puts a big financial burden on you because everything costs money in America. You an expect it to take several months to receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) so that you can look for a job. During this wait, you’ll have to figure out another way to support yourself.
The situation can get even harder if children are on the line. It’s important to review the types of government assistance that are available to you. Although you won’t be able to get means-tested benefits, you can still apply for non-cash benefits.
Lyon arrived in the U.S. on a student visa and fell in love with Mandy. They got married after 6 months and were happy in the beginning. Mandy’s family didn’t approve of their marriage and wanted them to divorce. Mandy was advised to not help him get a green card but instead, force him to work illegally to help support her family.
Lyon was verbally abused and threatened with deportation if he didn’t give Many and her family money. This went on for months and there was nothing Lyon could do because he feared that ICE would deport him.
In the case above, you may be wondering how this type of manipulation and control can be seen as abuse. Well, it does! If you can show that this went on for a period of time and have documented evidence of how it affected you emotionally and mentally, it’s enough.
When I say documented, I mean from a professional such as a doctor or psychiatrist.
What If VAWA Is Denied, What Are My Options?
VAWA denials do happen. The most important factor in a successful application is the evidence you submit. You need to convince USCIS that you were severely abused and you have documented evidence of all the events.
Of course, there are other things that will help get your case approved too.
Overall, you want to make sure that you document the abuse and you have other professions that can vouch for you. This can include doctors, police officers, church ministers, family, friends and so on.
In the end, if your case is denied, you have the option to reapply but I’d suggest the help of an immigration attorney. After a VAWA denial, you’ll likely be placed in removal proceedings.
Lola arrived on a K1 fiance visa last year but her marriage ended due to abuse. She left her husband and moved in with a friend of hers. She had not documented any of the abuse and submitted the I-360 with just affidavits from her friends.
After a 14 months of waiting, she was notified of the denial decision. She did not prove her case so she is now out-of-status with no green card and can’t work legally.
In the case above, Lola didn’t prove that she was abused by her U.S. citizen spouse. Without proof, she will not be able to get a green card. This is meant to stop people from abusing the system to try to get a green card without any intent of a genuine marriage.
But, these strict requirements can deny applicants that have true abuse cases but not enough evidence.
You may want to hire an immigration attorney and look into VAWA cancellation of removal process to avoid being deported after denial.
Final Thoughts On VAWA Timeline For Approval
By now, I want you to really understand the VAWA timeline and when you can expect the approval notice. Some cases do take much longer to process so this timeline is just an estimate.
The VAWA process is meant for real abuse victims but I’ve seen it used by scammers as well. Luckily, the process requires a lot of evidence so it’s not easy to get a green card using this method. It can also take 1-2 years for approval which is a long time to wait.
Remember, you can’t work until you have an approved I-360. It’s best to apply for the I-485 and I-765 at the same time as the I-360 even though USCIS won’t processes them until after your I-360 has been approved.
I’ve also recently written about whether a VAWA case can be approved after a denial, check it out and get familiar with the process. My advice to all of you who are just starting the VAWA process is to do a lot of research if you’re applying on your own. It can be done and a great majority of applicants apply for themselves and get approved but it’s up to you to know what’s required of you.
I’ve made the process simple by providing a step-by-step guide on how to apply for VAWA I-360.
Are you looking to file for VAWA after getting out of an abuse marriage? Do you think you have enough evidence? Let me know in the comments below.
Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.