How Long To Get Green Card After VAWA Approval?

by | Mar 22, 2024

In this blog post, we’re going to talk about a very important topic: how long it takes to get a green card after your VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) application has been approved.

This process can seem complicated, but we’re here to make it simpler. Whether you’re someone going through this process or just curious, this guide is designed to be easy to understand, aiming for a 9th-grade reading level. So, let’s dive in!

What is VAWA?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that was first enacted in 1994. It was designed to improve criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Over the years, VAWA has been reauthorized and expanded to provide more comprehensive protections and services for victims.

One of the key features of VAWA is its provisions for immigrants who are victims of domestic violence. Under VAWA, certain immigrants who have been abused by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) family member can self-petition for legal status in the United States. This means they can apply for a visa and work towards obtaining a green card (permanent residency) without the abuser’s knowledge or consent. This provision is crucial because it provides a pathway to safety and independence for victims who might otherwise be trapped in abusive relationships due to their immigration status.

VAWA applies to both women and men, despite its name. It includes protections for victims regardless of their sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The act covers abused spouses, children, and, in some cases, parents.

The process involves filing a VAWA petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and if approved, the applicant can then apply for lawful permanent residency. The VAWA self-petitioning process is designed to be confidential to help protect the safety of the victim.

VAWA’s reauthorizations have added provisions to address the needs of underserved populations, enhance law enforcement and court responses to abuse, and expand housing protections for victims. It’s considered a critical piece of legislation for combating domestic violence and supporting victims in the United States.

Getting a green card (permanent residency) through VAWA is a beacon of hope for many, offering a chance to live and work in the U.S. legally, free from abuse. But how long does it take after your VAWA approval? The answer depends on your situation, so let’s break it down.

The Two Categories of VAWA Applicants

VAWA applicants can be divided into two main categories based on their relationship with their abusive relative: those with a U.S. citizen relative and those with a permanent resident (green card holder) relative. The time it takes to get a green card after VAWA approval can vary significantly between these two groups.

VAWA Applicants With an Abusive U.S. Citizen Relative

If your abuser is a U.S. citizen, whether they’re your spouse, parent, or child, you’re considered an “immediate relative.” This is good news because it means there are no annual limits on green cards for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Once your VAWA application is approved, you can immediately apply for your green card. The processing time for your green card application can still vary, usually taking anywhere from a few months to more than a year. This timeline can depend on various factors, including the workload of the immigration office handling your case.

VAWA Applicants with an Abusive Permanent Resident Relative

The situation is a bit different if the abusive relative is a permanent resident (not a U.S. citizen). In this case, you fall into a category called “family preference.” There are annual limits on how many green cards can be given in this category, which can lead to longer waiting times. After your VAWA approval, you’ll have to wait for a visa number to become available, which can add years to the process. However, once a visa number is available, you can proceed with your green card application, facing a similar processing time as those with U.S. citizen abusers.

How Can an Immigration Lawyer Help with VAWA Cases?

Navigating the VAWA application process and the steps towards getting a green card can be challenging and emotional. This is where an immigration lawyer can make a big difference. Here’s how we, at North County Immigration, can help:

  1. Guidance and Support: We provide expert advice tailored to your specific situation, helping you understand your rights and the best path forward.
  2. Preparing Your Application: We help gather the necessary documentation and evidence to strengthen your VAWA application, aiming for approval without delays.
  3. Dealing with Complications: If there are any bumps along the road, like requests for additional evidence or interviews, we’re right there with you, prepared to respond effectively.
  4. Post-Approval Steps: Once your VAWA application is approved, we guide you through the green card application process, ensuring all paperwork is correctly filed and deadlines are met.

At North County Immigration, we understand the courage it takes to step forward and apply for legal status through VAWA. Our lead immigration attorney, Anna Hysell, is dedicated to supporting you every step of the way. If you or someone you know is seeking help with their VAWA application or has questions about the process, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Contact us today.

Remember, every journey to safety and security is unique, and while the process may seem long, the outcome—a life free from abuse and with legal status in the U.S.—is worth every step.

By Anna M. Hysell

Ms. Hysell is the founding and managing attorney of North County Immigration. After graduating from law school at the University of Wisconsin and getting several years of experience, Ms. Hysell returned to her native Southern California to open an office in North San Diego County to serve clients from the Bay Area to the Mexican Border. She frequently speaks at law conferences, law schools, and workshops providing training to other lawyers. Ms. Hysell is committed to representing individuals with the resolve, compassion, ethics, and values she believes everyone deserves.