Question: Can I apply for a green card while applying for VAWA?
Answer: Under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”), you may be eligible to obtain a green card if you are a victim of abuse. As a VAWA self-petitioner, you generally have three options regarding applying for a green card: you may either (1) apply for a green card at the same time you file your VAWA petition, (2) apply for a green card while your VAWA petition is pending, or (3) apply for a green card after your VAWA petition is approved. However, the options available to you are dependent upon your location at the time you file your VAWA petition.
Applying for VAWA
Under VAWA, you may be eligible to obtain a green card if you are the victim of battery or extreme cruelty committed by:
- Your U.S. citizen spouse or former spouse;
- Your U.S. citizen parent;
- Your U.S. citizen child;
- Your lawful permanent resident spouse or former spouse; or
- Your lawful permanent resident parent.
To file a VAWA self-petition, you must complete and submit a Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360). You may do so without the knowledge or consent of your abusive family member.
Applying for a Green Card
A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. If your VAWA self-petition is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and you meet other eligibility requirements, you may be eligible to obtain a green card and become a permanent resident of the U.S. To apply for a green card, you must complete and submit an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485).
VAWA and Green Card: Order of Application
As a VAWA self-petitioner, you may file your Form I-485 either:
- At the same time that you file your Form I-360;
- While your Form I-360 is pending; or
- After your Form I-360 is approved (and remains valid).
However, as discussed below, the time at which you apply for a green card will depend upon your location at the time you complete and submit your VAWA application.
Applying for VAWA while you are in the U.S.
If you are located in the U.S., then you may file your Form I-485 at the same time that you file your Form I-360. You are free to file your Form I-485 while your Form I-360 is pending or after your Form I-360 is approved, but there is no clear benefit to doing so.
VAWA and Green Card Applicants Outside the U.S.
One of the requirements for obtaining a green card is physical presence in the U.S. at the time of filing a Form I-485. Therefore, if you are a VAWA self-petitioner located outside the U.S., then you must complete and submit a Form I-360, obtain VAWA approval, and enter the U.S. before you complete and submit a Form I-485.
ImmiFree.Law is The Harrison Law Firm P.C.’s online platform to make the family immigration and naturalization process more efficient, accurate, and affordable. Baya Harrison, Esq. is an attorney licensed in New York, Florida, and California. Attorney Harrison has helped numerous individuals and families navigate the U.S. immigration process, specifically family-based petitions and naturalization.