How to Apply for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) and Obtain your Green Card



What is VAWA?

VAWA or the Violence Against Women Act offers protections and allows victims of domestic violence or spousal abuse to “self-petition” to obtain a green card without the cooperation of the U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative who is abusing them. VAWA applies to women, men, and children.


Who does VAWA protect and who is eligible to self-petition?


  • Spouses, former spouses (must be divorced and file in less than two years), of abusive U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

  • The children of abusive citizens or lawful permanent residents who file before turning 21 (or 25, if the delay can be linked to the abuse)

  • Parents of U.S. citizens (aged 21 and over)

  • Parent of abused children of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.



What is the process of filing for VAWA?

You must complete and file a Form I-360 (VAWA). You can choose to file a one-step by filing the I-360 with the Form I-485 bundle at the same time. If your abusive spouse is a green card holder, you may need to wait until your priority date is reached before filing Form I-485.


You will also be required to provide the following;


  • Police clearance or FBI report

  • Proof of marriage in good faith

  • Your good moral character (letters of recommendation, awards, etc)

  • Identifying documents including birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, immigration documents proving your identity and current status

  • The immigration status of the citizen or LPR spouse, parent, or child

  • Proof of residence with the abusive family member (lease, utility bills, a letter from your landlord.)

  • Proof that you live in the United States

  • Evidence of abuse



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How long does it take for VAWA to be approved?


After you have submitted your VAWA application, it could take between 16 and 24 months to process and approve your VAWA case. Be sure to look out for the following documents as you await USCIS approval of your application.


  • A letter to send in additional documentation or proof. You will have 60 days to respond

  • Your "Prima Facie Approval" letter which will entitle you to basic public assistance. This does not mean that your application has been approved but it is a good sign

  • An approval letter for your self-petition. (if you haven’t filed your Form I-485 (adjustment to green card or lawful permanent residence), you should do so now.

  • Or a denial letter


What benefits are included in VAWA?

After you have received your "Prima Facie Approval" letter, you may be entitled to public assistance, including the following.


  • Medicare or Medicaid

  • Public Housing

  • Food Stamps

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families


What can I do while I wait for my VAWA approval?


It is completely understood that this is an overwhelming and difficult time. However, while you are waiting for USCIS to approve your I-360 there are a number of things you can do.


  • Once you receive your "Prima Facie Approval" letter start applying for services you need

  • You may want to look for a support group

  • Although you may want to travel abroad to visit family and friends it is highly advised to not travel outside of the United States.

  • Call the Nation Domestic Violence Hotline for additional support and services

  • Speak to an immigration lawyer to find out your rights and to help you file.

  • Apply for a job once you receive your work permit. Being able to support yourself and get a job during this process is empowering.

Are you looking for immigration services or more information regarding VAWA? We can help.


Contact the Odunlami Law Firm at 973-993-1900 or email us iao@odunlamilaw.com


If you need an employment visa, wish to immigrate, or want to help bring a family member to the United States, the Odunlami Law Firm can help. If you are facing deportation or removal for any reason, you need our help. You may contact the law office for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Areas of Immigration Law:

  • Naturalization (Citizenship) Application

  • Immigrant Relative Petitions

  • Fiancé Visa Applications

  • Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing

  • Criminal Consequences and Deportation Defense

  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Application

  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

  • Green Card Renewals

  • Temporary Work Visas

  • Temporary Protected Status

  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

  • Waivers