VAWA Application Process
Two important confidentiality provisions in the law provide safeguards to the self-petitioner during the application process. First, adjudicators are prohibited from providing information about a self-petitioner to third parties, including the abuser. Second, the law prohibits the adjudicator from making any decisions about removability of the self-petitioner based solely on information provided by the abuser.
Responses from USCIS
Approximately two weeks after the VAWA petition is filed, USCIS will send the self-petitioner a Receipt Notice. If the petition appears on its face to satisfy all of the eligibility requirements, the self-petitioner will subsequently receive a notice of "Establishment of Prima Facie" case. The standard is a statement of facts that, if substantiated, would lead to approval of the self-petition. Note, however, the prima facie notice is not an approval, but may grant the self-petitioner the right to receive certain public benefits. If the adjudicator requires additional information, the self-petitioner will receive a "Request for Evidence" which she must respond to with the required information by the specified deadline in order to ensure that her petition will not be deemed to be abandoned.
The Vermont Service Center is taking approximately 10-14 months to adjudicate VAWA petitions. If the Vermont Service Center approves the VAWA petition, the self-petitioner will receive an Approval Notice. If not, she will receive a Notice of Intent to Deny followed by a Denial. In that case, the self-petitioner may file a request for reconsideration with the Vermont Service Center. If that request is denied, the self-petitioner may appeal with the Administrative Appeals Office.
With approval of her VAWA petition, the self-petitioner receives what is referred to as "Deferred Action" status for 15 months, renewable thereafter in 12-month increments. What this means is that she is low in priority for removal from the U.S. Further, she has a legal basis for employment authorization and is eligible to receive an employment authorization document, or work permit. If the self-petitioner is married to a U.S. citizen and filed an I-485 application concurrently with her VAWA petition, the I-485 will be transferred to a local district office for adjudication and subsequent interview for a green card.