Under VAWA, if you are an abused spouse of a US citizen or resident then you may be eligible for some benefits. Such benefits include the abused spouse’s ability to “self-petition,” which means that the abused spouse can apply for VAWA by herself without relying on her husband to go through the legal process. The abused spouse will also be eligible for work authorization, some public benefits, and lawful permanent residence. The abused spouse may not have to leave the country and be protected from deportation as the VAWA petition is pending. To be eligible for these VAWA benefits, the abused spouse must go through the following process, which is just an overview.
1. You must file your Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant at the Vermont Service Center (VSC) along with supporting documentation that proves how you meet the self-petitioning requirements.
2. USCIS will review your VAWA application and send you a “Notice of Prima Facie Eligibility” within several months if it is approvable on its face. You can use this notice as evidence to obtain government aid like Medicare, Title IV Federal Student Financial Aid, and Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy (“SRO”).
3. If USCIS approves your petition, USCIS will send you an “Approval Notice” and a “Notice of Deferred Action” (if you requested it). “Deferred Action” means that you came here illegally, but USCIS will not likely deport you because of your pending VAWA petition. You will then be able to apply for work authorization with either notices.
4. You will then be able to “adjust status,” which is the process that you use to apply to become a permanent resident (also known as a green card holder) while in the US. You can adjust your status when your immigrant visa becomes available, which may be quite soon if you are the spouse of a US citizen, but may take several years for spouses of permanent residents.
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