Parents, children and spouses who live with a U.S. citizen and are abused are eligible for a green card. This category of people are called immediate relatives. There is no limit on the amount of immigrant visas that are available for immediate relatives and these visas are always available. As soon as the I-360 Petition for American, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant is filed and accepted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), a visa is available for you.
Filing a Stand Alone I-360 Petition: As an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, you may file the I-360 petition alone or your may file it with an I-485 Adjustment of Status application. There are many reasons why you may decide to file a stand alone petition. Some typical reasons are costs, inadmissibility issues and travel restrictions. If you file the I-360 application alone, you did not apply for a green card. Form I-485 is the actual green card application. A solid I-360 petition shows the relationship between you and the abuser and should include various pieces of evidence documenting the abuse. The I-360 petition is processed by the Vermont Service Center an it takes about two to three years for the agency to reach a decision. Upon approval of the I-360 you are eligible for employment authorization, even without filing an adjustment of status application. USCIS regularly updates its processing times based on its workload and the number of applications it receives. If you choose the stand alone option, after you receive an approval, you may file for permanent residence and that could take another two years. This means that the entire process could last five years.
Filing an I-360 Petition with an Adjustment of Status Application: Lengthy processing times are one of the primary reason why qualified applicants choose to file both forms together. You may even file the I-485 application, while form I-360 is pending. Although the I-485 is not being evaluated until after there is a decision on form I-360, just by filing the I-485 form, you are eligible for work authorization and travel. You must apply for these two benefits using the appropriate forms but your pending I-485 application gives you legal grounds to be able to file. If you are occupied with work and international travel, you are living your life to the fullest, while you wait. If all goes well and your VAWA and adjustment of status application are approved, it should take about five years from the date of filing to receive your green card.