What is a VAWA application?
The Violence Against Woman Act (“VAWA”) was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1994 to protect victims of abuse who are not U.S. citizens. Although most VAWA applicants are women in abusive relationships, the Act is not limited to protecting one specific gender or sex over the other.
Naturalization and VAWA
“Naturalization” is defined as the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). Victims of abuse who deserve relief under VAWA can apply for naturalization after three years instead of the standard five.
U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are eligible to file an immigrant visa petition on behalf of a spouse or child with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to obtain legal status. However, some abusive U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents misuse this process by threatening to report victims to the USCIS. Thankfully, under the VAWA, qualifying battered immigrants may file for immigration relief themselves without the abuser’s knowledge. This ensures that the victims are able to file safely and independently without notifying their abuser.
Who May Self-File for Naturalization Under VAWA?
Generally, there are three classes of eligible parties, each of which is subject to varying basic requirements, who may self-file for naturalization based on an approved VAWA application.
- Battered spouse: If you are a “battered spouse” of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, you are eligible to file for naturalization yourself.
- Children: If you are a child under 21 years old, unmarried, and were abused by your U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident parent, you are eligible to file for naturalization yourself.
- Parent: If you are a parent, and have been abused by, a U.S. citizen, you are eligible to file for naturalization yourself.
Application Process and Benefits of Naturalization
To begin the naturalization process under VAWA, eligible parties must complete the Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant and file with the Vermont Service Center. An approved Form I-360 carries two primary benefits:
- It will allow you to work in the United States
- It will greenlight your eligibility to file for a green card.
USCIS does not provide a timeline for this process, however, it may take between 6 months to 2 years for approval. When your VAWA case is approved, you may file a Form I-485 Adjustment of Status to apply for a green card.
Why Having an Immigration Attorney is Crucial
The immigration law experts at Yekrangi & Associates are on your side. We understand the sensitive, and oftentimes dangerous, a situation that victims of abuse find themselves in. You can rest assured that your case will be handled discreetly and as respectfully as possible. Individuals who attempt to take on immigration law alone have the potential to harm their case. An experienced immigration attorney can guide you through the application process and help you gather the necessary evidence and documentation related to your case. Having an attorney on your side can increase the chances of getting your application approved.If you or a loved one needs assistance, our team of experienced lawyers can help. Contact Yekrangi & Associates at (949) 478-4963 for more information about how we can help you with all your immigration needs. Se habla Español and we offer services in Farsi and Mandarin as well.