The VAWA Application Process

The application is filed on USCIS form I-360. It’s done all through mail correspondence, and there are strict confidentiality provisions written into the law.  VAWA attorneys are often asked about the nature of the application process because people are afraid that by applying they may be putting themselves or their children at risk if the abusive spouse finds out.

As long as you have all your documents mailed to your attorney or another secure address where you are sure the abuser will not have access, you don’t have to worry about this.  Applicants never have to go to court (unless they are already in deportation proceedings), and there is no in-person interview involved.  That’s important for people to understand.

Finally, in addition to the I-360, people who are still married to their US citizen (not legal permanent resident) spouses can actually apply for their green cards right along with the I-360 application. That’s done using USCIS form I-485.

Steps of the VAWA Application

1. Meeting With an Attorney

The first part of the process is just to meet with an attorney to discuss your case, and to prepare a declaration that explains the abuse in thorough detail.

2. Gather Supporting Evidence

You’ll then want to gather the supporting evidence.  Sometimes this can involve meeting with a therapist or psychologist, but the process is totally different in every case.

3. Complete the USCIS Forms With Your Attorney

You and your attorney can review your supporting evidence and documentation, and then complete the USCIS forms.

4. Submit to a Background Check

One thing that every applicant has to submit is a background check that reveals their criminal record each address they’ve resided in in the U.S.

5. Submit the VAWA Application Packet

Once you have completed all the USCIS forms, you will submit the entire packet to the USCIS Vermont Service Center, where there is a department that deals exclusively with VAWA and U visa applicants.

6. Take Your Fingerprints

Finally, a few weeks after the application is submitted you’ll receive a notice to take your fingerprints.

7. Submit Further Evidence As Requested, and Receive a Decision

After the fingerprints are taken then you’ll get either a request for evidence from the government that they need further evidence to adjudicate your case or you’ll get a decision. And, if your application is granted you are eligible for work authorization and you’ll be legally residing in the United States.

Length of the VAWA Application Process

It really depends on USCIS’ current adjudication load. Currently, they are taking anywhere from 8 months to a year.

Common Misconceptions

A lot of people think that they have to have police reports or some sort of formal legal documentation of the abuse in order to qualify and that’s definitely not true. Unlike some of the other applications for victims like the U visa, you don’t have to ever even have called the police or formally reported the abuse in any manner in order to be eligible for VAWA.

The VAWA Application Process