The REAL Timeline For Your VAWA Case! (2024)

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The REAL Timeline For Your VAWA Case! (2024)

What is the real timeline that you can expect in your VAWA application? Over the past 14 years my office has successfully processed thousands of VAWA applications! We help clients file VAWA cases almost every single day, so I have a very thorough understanding of how long things can take in your VAWA case, what to expect, and what will happen next.

In this video I am going to share actual timelines of what you can expect during each stage of your VAWA case, including how long it will take for you to get your citizenship and your green card once your VAWA application is approved. This way you will know what is a reasonable time to expect to wait, and what may be normal and what may be outside of processing times.

VAWA Case Filing Timeline

Preparing your VAWA case is going to be the very first stage in your case, and this is where you want to take as much time as is necessary in order to prepare a strong case with the right types of evidence and ensure the highest chance of success. Typically, you will want to prepare the actual forms that you need to prove your VAWA application.

The only form that you actually need to file for VAWA is call the form I-360 application for a self petition. However, this is just to establish your basis of eligibility underneath the VAWA self petition category. If you also want to file for a green card, you will also have to submit the form I-485 application to adjust status or to register your status as a permanent resident.

This application is usually fileable concurrently along with your VAWA application, but sometimes you may need to wait for your priority to become current. If you are the spouse of a green card holder, you may not be able to file it at the same time as your I-360 application. If you are able to file your I-485 application for permanent residency, then you will also want to file with your application and employment authorization documents request through the form I-765.

This is the actual work permit application and you can also file for your form I-131 application for advance parole, which is going to give you the authority to travel internationally with the card that is produced with your application. Now, when you are filing for VAWA, the good news is that there are no government filing fees for any of these forms when you file for VAWA. But forms are not just the only thing that you need to file to get yourself approved for VAWA, you must also make your case. And the best way to make your case that you are eligible for VAWA is to submit a strong and detailed affidavit outlining what you have gone through in your relationship and any supporting documentation. Now, how long it takes to prepare a case will depend first on who is preparing your case, whether it is yourself or a different law firm.

Many people will have different timelines because they have different ways of processing these applications. So I would expect it to take anywhere from a month to several months for your application. For example, in my office we take several months to prepare applications because we try to do a very thorough job. But there are many factors that can prolong this timeline, including, number one, if you need to get certain official records. For example, if you do not have your official copies of marriage certificate or divorce certificates, or if you have ever been arrested in the past, you need to include your certificates of disposition and certified copies of these things.

If you don't already have them, then you do have to make the effort to get them from the appropriate agencies. And this can definitely take time. And lastly, as previously mentioned, if you are filing for a VAWA based upon marriage to a green card holder, you are not able to file your I-485 until the priority date for your category is current.
Keep in mind that if you already filed an I-130 with your spouse, then you may be able to file your I-485 at this time as you will be able to retain the priority date that is on that I-130 filed by your green card holding spouse. Priority dates do not matter at all if you are filing for VAWA based upon the marriage to a U.S. citizen. So keep that in mind.

USCIS Case Processing Timeline

Now, once your case is prepared and are ready for submission, your case will be filed and that is when you will go into the next stage of your case. This is what I would like to call “the waiting game”. And the waiting game is going to take approximately two and a half years to three years for you to receive final, final approvals in your case. However, we can break this down into further steps.

The first subpart of this waiting game until your VAWA and your green card is approved is your wait period for your biometrics notice and your receipts from your case. When you file any sort of case with immigration, generally speaking, you will first receive a receipt notices indicating a case number for each of the forms that you have submitted to USCIS. Therefore, if you file an I-360, you will receive a receipt notice for your I-360. If you filed and I-485 you will receive a receipt notice for that application. If you filed an I-765 and if you filed an I-131, then you will receive a separate receipt notice for each of these two forms. It generally takes between 2 to 3 months to receive the receipt notices.

Keep in mind that your receipt notice is something that you can also use to track your case online with, and also your receipt notice is going to tell you the date that your application was filed. Then you will wait for your biometrics appointment. I would say that the average amount of time that it takes from start to finish, from the date of filing your case until you receive your biometrics appointment, notice is going to be about five months.

Once you receive your receipt notices, then USCIS will conduct a preliminary review of your case. And this is something that is very, very simple, and it usually will occur almost immediately as soon as your case filed. And it will include just a preliminary check to make sure that you have filed with the correct form, that everything is properly signed and that you have filed with the correct additional dates of the current forms.

You will generally know within the first two months after you file your VAWA application if anything will be rejected. But don't worry, if you do get rejected, you will have the opportunity to file your case again. But the best piece of advice is to triple check everything before you file so nothing gets rejected since you don't want to affect any sort of deadlines that you may have in your case.

After this, USCIS will conduct a review of your case in order to issue a prima facie determination. The prima facie and determination will generally take about 5 to 7 months from the date that you first submit your case to receive. Typically, to receive a prima facie determination, USCIS will double check to see that you preliminarily have all of the evidence that is required to prove a VAWA application. This is what I would call a first level or a very superficial reading of your case to make sure that you have the bare minimum amount of evidence to prove your case. For example, USCIS will check to see that you have included evidence of a qualifying relationship with a U.S. citizen relative or a green card holding spouse. They will also check for shared residence evidence.

Next, they will check for good moral character evidence. And lastly, they will check to see that you have included some evidence of extreme cruelty or battery. If USCIS determines that you have met the preliminary eligibility criteria, then they will issue you a letter called a prima facie determination. I think that getting a prima facie determination is always a very, very good sign. However, it is not a 100% guarantee that you will not get a request for evidence down the road, which I'll talk about later. Not only does the prima facie determination serve as temporary evidence that you have filed a legitimate VAWA application, but in many states you may be able to use the prima facie determination to get certain government benefits.

Some of these public benefits can include access to public housing, access to food stamps and Medicaid, and other federal or state benefits, depending on eligibility. Now, once you have done your fingerprints, received your case receipt notices, and received a prima facie determination, this is when you are going to wait for the longest period of time in your VAWA case. I would say that it is typical and pretty average to wait approximately 24 to 36 months for news from immigration regarding your VAWA case. During this time period, you may receive what is called a request for evidence. I typically see that clients will receive a request for evidence near the tail end of this waiting period. Therefore, if you filed VAWA 24 months ago and you have not yet received a request for evidence, at this point you may receive either a approval of your case or a request for evidence.

Keep in mind that immigration officers at USCIS are basically reviewing cases on a first come, first serve basis. And when they say that the average processing time is two and a half to three years, that means that it basically takes two and a half to three years for your case to actually reach their desk and for them to begin their review of your case. Therefore, if it takes 24 months for your case to reach the Immigration officers desk, it is at that time that they will review your case and they may determine at that time that additional evidence is required to establish your eligibility. If you do happen to receive a request for evidence, make sure to read it very carefully and check against the evidence that you have already submitted to USCIS to understand exactly what USCIS looking for at this stage of the case.

If you are not already working with a lawyer or if you do not trust your lawyer because of the job that they have done, then it is time to work with an attorney who has experience handling RFE’s. And I'm happy to say that my office has helped many, many clients who have come to us with requests for evidence, and we have successfully gotten approved those clients cases, even though they were working with other attorneys in the beginning. This is the stage of your case where you don't want to take a chance, and you have this opportunity to make or break your case. Make sure you identify that deadline that is given to you on your request for evidence. Typically speaking, you will get 87 days to respond to USCIS. Make sure you start early and take the appropriate amount of time as necessary to build a strong case for your RFE.

Many people think that they need to respond to the RFE as soon as possible, however, don't sacrifice quality for speediness. As I mentioned, this is the time that you really want to make as strong of a case as possible, especially if your previously submitted documentation was not clear or not strong. Now I forgot to mention, before you receive any requests for evidence, you will receive your work permit and your travel document if you applied for it at the same time as your VAWA. And typically speaking, I see that clients will receive their EAD and advance parole between 6 to 10 months after filing their initial case. The great news is that work authorizations are being given out for a validity period of five years right now. And if you happen to get a combo card of employment authorization document and advance parole, that means that your advance parole will also be valid for five years.

I do want to note that in some cases USCIS has separated the processing of employment authorization documents from the application for advance parole in order to try to speed up the processing times, although I'm not really too sure what sort of difference it's making other than causing applications for advanced parole to take even longer than usual. If USCIS does decide to not process your EAD and advance parole as a combo card, then you will usually receive your work authorization within six months and then your application for advance parole within ten months after filing.

Now, many people want to travel and leave the U.S. as soon as they receive their advance parole, and I always get asked in my lives, “is it safe to travel with advance parole?” And I do want to let you know that generally speaking, it is usually safe to travel with your advance parole. However, it is not a 100% guarantee that you will be allowed to return to the U.S. even if you have advance parole.

I typically recommend that any persons who had any sort of criminal history or any other complications in their case to avoid traveling with advance parole because Customs and Border Patrol is always allowed to ask you further questions upon reentering the U.S.. And if you don't have to take that risk of traveling, then sometimes it is better to just keep that advance parole in your back pocket in case you have an emergency.

Once you receive your work permit, then you will also usually receive your Social Security card in the mail within 2 to 3 months after your employment authorization document is produced. These days, most people will select the option on the Form I-765 to notify Social Security Administration automatically once the work permit is approved. Therefore, you usually do not have to take any additional steps to get your Social Security card, you just need to wait in the mail. However, if you have forgotten to check off that box, or more than three months have gone by and you have not received your Social Security card in the mail yet, then you may want to make a visit to your local Social Security Administration office to apply for a replacement or to make further inquiries.

Coming up, I'm going to share with you the actual timeline of how long you can expect to wait for the approval of your I-360 and your green card, and how long you have to wait to become a citizen. But first, I do want to let you know that I am accepting new clients. My name is Moumita Rahman and I have been practicing immigration law for the past 14 years.

If you would like an evaluation of your case, call us at 212-248-7907 to make an appointment today. I am based in New York, but I have clients all over the United States!

VAWA Case Approval Timeline

Now, how long will it take to get your form I-360 approval notice? This is what everybody is waiting for! And what I can say is that the USCIS website says that it takes up to 36 months to get approval of your form I-360 and I would say that that's not too far off. This notice will confirm that you have met all of the eligibility requirements to prove that you are the battered or abused spouse of a green card holder or a U.S. citizen, or a parent of a U.S. citizen who has subjected you to extreme cruelty or battery. If you did not get a request for evidence in your I-360 application, then you can expect that your I-360 Approval Notice will take approximately 26 to 30 months to receive. This is the typical processing time that we are seeing in our office.

We are seeing that it is taking an average of two and a half months to receive approval of the form I-360. Sometimes this can go up and sometimes this timeline can go down, but typically not more than by six months. If you did not file your form I-485 concurrently with your I-360, then you may be able to do so at this moment, once you receive approval of your form I-360 and as long as your priority for your category is current. As previously mentioned, if you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen or the parent of a U.S. citizen who has subjected you to extreme cruelty and battery, then you do not need to even wait for the Form I-360 to get approved and you can file at any time. So once your Form I-360 is approved, then how long will it take to get your green card? You may be surprised to know that you will not get your green card automatically as soon as your I-360 is approved.

This is because the application for your I-360 VAWA form is processed separately and independently of your form I-485. Your form I-360 application is processed by specially trained immigration officers who work out of the Vermont Service Center. And the only jurisdiction that they have is to processed your form I-360. Once your form I-360 is processed, they will then notify the local field office that the form I-360 is approved.

And if you did file the I-485 concurrently with your case, they will forward that application to your local field office for USCIS. Once the local field office receives the application from the Vermont Service Center, then your form I-485 will actually enter into its independent and new processing time. And here's a secret: this processing time is going to depend on two variable factors.

The first factor is for how long it will take to process your form I-485 will 100% depend on your local field office. And number two, whether or not the local field office decides that they need to interview you for your green card application. Now, each field office is different. Some local USCIS field offices are busier than others. If your local field office does not have a very heavy caseload, then you can expect to receive news about your I-485 within a couple of months after your form I-360 is approved. However, if your local field office is one of the busier field offices, like the ones that we have in New York City, then it could take six months to a year to receive news of your form I-485.

Here is some inside information that I have, I am seeing a couple of different timelines for my VAWA I-485 green card cases. For example, here in New York for my clients that are not receiving interviews, we are seeing VAWA applications get their green cards approved within six months after filing. And even in cases where an interview is being requested by USCIS in various field offices throughout the country, we are also seeing that clients are getting these interviews in approximately six months after the VAWA is approved. Therefore, once your VAWA is approved, I would say that it is average to receive some sort of decision or interview notice within six months. And of course, if you end up having an interview in your case, you may not get a decision right away. And the field office typically has up to four months to make a decision on your interview.

Now, if you did not already submit the form I-485 with your VAWA application, then now is the time to do so, especially if your VAWA has been approved and your priority is not an issue. You need to get this application filed in order to get your green card. You'll need to submit proof of your I-360 approval along with any other documentation required for a Form I-485, including a medical exam, passport photos, proof of your identity, proof of your prior marriages and divorces, and any proof of any criminal convictions that you may have had.

The lucky part right now is that if you did not previously file your form I-485, guess what? There is no more filing fee for the form I-485 when you are filing underneath VAWA! If you are filing your form I-485 right now, then typically I would still say that this process should take about six months to 12 months to finish.

You will receive your receipt notice within 1 to 2 months after filing, and then you will receive another biometrics appointment letter within a few months after that. And then you will wait for either a request for evidence, an appointment notice for an interview, or an approval of your form I-485. Assuming all goes well and USCIS is ready to issue a decision on your form I-485, you will get an approval notice in the mail and then your green card within 30 days after your I-485 is approved.

Congratulations, you are almost done!

Citizenship Timeline

Now once you have been approved for VAWA, how long do you have to wait to file for U.S. citizenship? You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you only have to wait three years to file for U.S. citizenship when you have received residency through VAWA. And moreover, you may be able to file your N-400 Application for Naturalization at two years and nine months after you have received your green card through VAWA.

Once you submit your form N-400, it will also take one month to two months to receive your case receipt notices, and then you will have to wait for a biometrics appointment, which will typically come within 2 to 3 months after you receive your receipts. So you can see that the time frame is actually not that different from the initial VAWA application at this stage.

Next, you will receive your naturalization interview appointment. I have seen the wait times for naturalization interviews take as little as two months in less busy jurisdictions and up to one year in more busy locations like New York. You will usually get a decision on your N-400 the same day as your interview. But if your case is being held for review, then your decision may be delayed by as many as three months. But typically when you are approved, you may naturalize the same day if your local office offers same-day naturalization ceremonies. Or you may have to come back within 1 to 2 months for a ceremony.

Now, whether you have already filed your VAWA application or you are looking to file your VAWA application, you should know the top five reasons why VAWA applications get denied, as well as what to do if that happens to you. Rest assured that it is not the end of the world if you get a request for evidence, or even if you get denied. But time is of the essence and you will need to act fast! I explain everything you need to know in my latest video, The Top Five Reasons Why VAWA Cases Get Denied and How to Save Your Case.

I'll include a link to that video here. Click to watch this video next and I'll see you there.

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