Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, which contains a provision for an abused spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to self petition for him or herself rather than rely on the abusive spouse or parent to submit a visa petition on the applicant’s behalf. The policy behind VAWA is to provide qualifying survivors of domestic violence a path to escape violence and obtain legal status in the United States.
What forms of abuse qualify for VAWA benefits?
The standard under VAWA is “battery or extreme cruelty,” which can take different forms, including physical violence or threat of violence, forceful detention, physical or mental injury, or immigration sabotage. Furthermore, acts or threatened acts may demonstrate an overall pattern of battery or extreme cruelty.
Three separate immigration benefits exist under VAWA:
1) The VAWA self-petitioning process is available to a foreign national who has been the victim of abuse by his or her (a) U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse (or if that spouse has abused the foreign national’s child); (b) U.S. citizen or resident parent (or step-parent); or (c) adult U.S. citizen child. In addition to proving battery or extreme cruelty, a self-petitioner must also demonstrate the relationship to the abuser, residence with the abuser, and a good faith marriage (if based on abusive spouse).
2) A battered spouse or child waiver is available to conditional residents if he or she has been the victim of battery or extreme cruelty.
3) VAWA Cancellation of Removal is available to a foreign national in removal proceedings who can demonstrate battery or extreme cruelty by a U.S. citizen or resident spouse or parent, three years physical presence in the United States, good moral character, and extreme hardship.
What is the VAWA petitioning process?
A VAWA self-petition is filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the VAWA self-petition is approved, the applicant may apply for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident if the abuser was a U.S. citizen at the time of approval. If the abuser is not a U.S. citizen at the time of approval, adjustment of status may not be immediately available, requiring the VAWA applicant to wait for a visa number to become available. A VAWA approved applicant may obtain deferred action and employment authorization until a visa becomes available. The self-petitioning process also allows for derivative benefits to qualified family members.
The battered spouse or child waiver is also filed with USCIS. An approval results in the removal of conditions on residency and the granting of permanent resident status in the United States (as opposed to conditional resident status).
VAWA Cancellation of Removal is a form of relief before the Executive Office for Immigration Review. A grant of VAWA Cancellation results in lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. Successful cases also result in benefits to qualified derivative children.
The requirements and procedure for VAWA benefits can be complicated and requires careful assessment. Wilson Law Group has successfully assisted numerous individuals in the United States with VAWA-related applications. We are happy to schedule a consult to discuss this option and your particular situation with you.
To discuss the specifics of your case:
Call us at 678.324-8511;
E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org; or
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If you handle your case correctly, and your fiancée is not from a country that is considered to have high fraud, then the total wait should be between 7 to 9 months in 2018. The majority of our cases are being completed in about 8 months. Prior to Trump taking office, the fiancée visa timeline was closer to 6 months. This fiancée visa timeline can change. This blog article will explain, in detail, about the fiancée visa timeline.
The most important thing you can do is file a quality fiancée visa petition with USCIS. If you are missing evidence or have other mistakes in your case it is likely that your case will take longer than average. This is why it makes sense to at least consult with an experienced immigration attorney about your situation. The attorney will review you case and point out weak areas or areas which may cause your case to be delayed or denied. You can then take the steps to fix those areas prior to filing your case.
You will file your case with USCIS.
A Notice of Action will be sent to you from USCIS in a few weeks. The notice of action is meant to let you know that USCIS has received your packet and that the case is being processed. After this your case will go quiet. You really should not hear anything for the next 5 to 7 months. (This wait is quite a bit longer than the wait time just a couple of years ago)
If all is well with your case you will receive USCIS approval at this point. Unfortunately, this does not mean that your case has been approved (if only it were that easy). It just means that you have passed the first of three hurdles. Your case will now be sent to National Visa Center. At the National Visa Center level your case will be assigned a new Department of State case number. After the National Visa Center assigns a new case number your case will be sent to the local American embassy or consulate. They will process the remaining part of the fiancée visa case.
The interview should take place sometime within the next month 2 to 3 months. The wait time will primarily be based on the number of cases being processed at the time your case is there. At this stage your fiancée will have her very important interview, have her medical examination done, and be told about obtaining other documents to finalize her case. She needs to make sure that she complies with everything that is requested of her at this point in the process.
The interview is very important. This will probably be the most important interview in your fiancé’s life. If it goes well then she will be able to start her life with you in the United States in a short amount of time. If it does not go well you may have to refile the whole case and start over. This could take an additional 8 months or longer.
The key thing is that she know about you and your life. She should know you very well in order to have a successful interview. She should know about your life in the United States. She should know where you live, what kind of work you do, and all about your family . If you have a criminal past she should know about this and not find out about it at the interview. In addition, she should know about any past marriages. You may wish to read our article about the fiancée visa interview process. This includes the fiancée visa interview questions.
Assuming all goes well at the consulate the fiancée visa will be granted. Congratulations! Approval generally happens in about a week to 10 days. You are then eligible to enter the United States with your fiancée visa.
You will receive a sealed packet that must not be opened until you come to your port of entry. The fiancée visa is valid for 6 months and is a one time entry. I have had potential clients ask if they can get married in the United States and then immediately go to Mexico or another country for their honeymoon. As the fiancée visa is a one time entry visa I have had to tell them that unfortunately they will not be able to honeymoon in Mexico right after their wedding. Instead they will need to get married within 90 days and then file for their fiancée’s green card via adjustment of status. Once they file for adjustment of status there will be a 3-6 month wait to receive a work/travel card. (Btw: there is no rhyme or reason as to why some clients receive this card in 3 months and some receive it closer to 6 months. The results really seem to be random. This is a lot different than even a couple of years ago when everyone seemed to receive this card about 3 months after their adjustment of status case was filed with USCIS.) They can use this travel card (advance parole) in order to travel outside of the United States for their honeymoon. Thankfully, many of our clients are in California and there are plenty of places to go for their honeymoon in California. Once the travel card is issued, assuming that they entered on a fiancée visa, they can then go out of the country for a trip.
I hope you enjoyed this blog article about the fiancée visa timeline. Just a reminder that this timeline is just an estimate and can, and probably will, change over time. You can make sure the case moves as quickly as possible by filing a quality petition with USCIS and timely responding and turning in requested evidence when requested.
To discuss the specifics of your case, call us at 678.324-8511 or e-mail us at email@example.com today to learn more.