Summer months are peak times for domestic violence. As temperatures rise, so do tempers. What happens when a family petition turns sour because of abuse in the relationship?

Currently, it takes about five months from the time of filing a marriage-based I-130 and I-485 to the time of an interview. Unfortunately, a lot can change for a couple in five months.

Recently, I’ve seen three cases where domestic abuse and extreme cruelty began during this pending period. The foreign national doesn’t know how to move forward because she’s afraid of the case is denied, but she’s also afraid of staying with an abusive spouse.

Most importantly, no one should ever stay in an unsafe, abusive relationship, especially not for immigration purposes. The solution to gaining legal status may differ depending on the timing, but there is always a solution.

The I-130 belongs to the U.S. citizen. However, a VAWA application (Form I-360), can take its place.

The I-485 belongs to the foreign national – regardless of the underlying petition being an I-130 or I-360. If the marriage disintegrates because of abuse before an interview, the I-130 will be denied since there is no viable relationship. However, the I-485 (and the $1070 filing fee) can be converted. Instead of being connected to an I-130, if a VAWA petition is filed, it can be connected to the I-360.

The key is to communicate with USCIS what is happening. If an interview is scheduled, you need to appear and explain the situation. USCIS will often give you a month or so to file a VAWA petition. If an interview hasn’t been scheduled, take advantage of the time and file one, referencing the already filed I-485.

Having a pending petition and then having the rug pulled out from underneath you with domestic violence is scary. Everything is changing and you don’t know what to do. Get help and be safe. Call the police at 911 if you feel threatened!

When the time is right, contact an experienced immigration attorney who can help file a thorough VAWA petition as quickly as possible.

– Tracie