Under VAWA or the Violence Against Women Act, you can apply to become a permanent resident of the United States. For this, you need to be a victim of abuse or battery committed by:
- A parent who is a U.S. citizen
- A spouse or former spouse who is a U.S. citizen
- A son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen
- A lawful permanent resident partner or spouse.
- A lawful permanent resident parent
You can self-petition under VAWA by simply filing a petition for Widow or Special Immigrant status without the consent or knowledge of the abuser. To self-petition for Special Immigrant, you need to fill out Form I-360. If you file for VAWA self-petition, you will be known as a VAWA self-petitioner. After the approval of your self-petition, you can apply to become a lawful permanent resident, assuming that you meet other eligibility requirements.
Eligibility for VAWA self-petitioner
In order to be eligible as a VAWA self-petitioner for your green card, you need to meet the following criteria:
- You need to fill out Form I-485 for Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
- You need to be present physically in the U.S. when you will file for Form I-485.
- You will obtain an immigrant visa as you file Form I-485 and when the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) takes final decision regarding your application.
- You need to “merit the favorable exercise” regarding USCIS discretion.
You may be eligible for an immigrant visa by meeting this criteria:
- You need to fill out Form I-360.
- You can receive an immigrant visa depending upon a previously filed VAWA self-petition.
- Submit a VAWA self-petition, which is filed along with Form I-485.
How to apply
If you are residing in the United States and you meet the other requirements required for filing, you can file Form I-485. This allows you to apply for a green card without even leaving the country.
You need to have an approved Form I-360 to qualify for a green card. If you are a VAWA self-petitioner and are willing to adjust your status as an immediate relative, you can file Form I-485 any time you want. This is because you can get a visa any time if you are an immediate relative. If the visa is available immediately, you can go ahead and file Form I-485:
- Concurrently with your Form I-360
- When your Form I-360 is still pending, OR
- After your Form I-360 gets approved or remains valid
If you have a Form I-485 which is based on approved form I-130, which is the Petition for Alien Relative, you can request to convert your Form I-485 so that it gets based on VAWA self-petition. The Form I-130 may be filed by the abusive family member for you. To request to change Form I-485, you need to notify the USCIS office to settle Form I-485. You need to inform the office of USCIS that you have already filed for VAWA self-petition.
What documents to submit?
For adjusting your status, you need to submit the following evidence and documents:
- Filled out Form I-485
- Two passport photographs
- Copy of any Government issued ID that contains your photograph.
- A copy of your certificate of birth.
- Copy of the page of your passport with any non-immigrant visa if applicable
- Copy of the page of your passport with parole stamp which has been issued by any US immigrant officer if applicable.
- Clear records from police and court regarding any criminal activity of yours. If you have been convicted under any criminal case, it might happen that you will be barred from the privileges.