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A Road Map to Citizenship: María’s Story Continues

June 26, 2023
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When we last left off, Eagan Immigration’s undocumented client “María” had submitted all her paperwork for a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Self-Petition. María is applying for legal status in the United States because her 23-year-old U.S. citizen son, Miguel, is psychologically and financially abusive toward her. Waiting to gain a green card and ultimately citizenship is a years-long process, but Eagan’s attorneys submitted María’s petition within one month of agreeing to work with her, so that means she won’t have as long to wait as most other immigration lawyers’ clients. Here’s what comes next:  

Step 1 of the Waiting Game: María receives her prima facie determination. 

Right from the beginning, María’s attorney warned her that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is averaging about 33.5 months to make a final decision on a VAWA petition. Because María is still nervous about Miguel’s reaction if he finds out she is filing for legal status based on his abuse, she decides to have her mail sent to Eagan Immigration’s office instead of her home. That means that a few months later, it is an Eagan associate who calls María with the good news: USCIS has issued her a prima facie determination! This document means that USCIS has looked at María’s application and, although not yet approved, the agency agrees that it appears she meets all the requirements for future approval. With this document, María becomes eligible for a variety of aid never before available to her, including food and housing assistance. While María is doing OK right now, she breathes a sigh of relief that she now has access to a safety net if that ever changes.  

Step 2: María becomes eligible to work legally in the United States and travel outside the country without fear.  

At the same time Eagan Immigration filed María’s VAWA petition, it also took the step of filing an I-765 employment authorization application and an I-131 travel authorization application. Those two applications are a big deal: the first gives her documentation work legally in the United States, while the second offers Advance Parole, meaning she can leave the country without fear of being denied entry back in. Even better news for María? Those two applications are a lot faster. Usually, applicants can expect to receive an answer within six to 12 months of applying for their I-765 and I-131s. In María’s case, she gets the miraculous call from Eagan about seven months after applying. She is thrilled to hear that she has received her Employment Authorization Document and been granted Advanced Parole!  

While María still has some waiting ahead of her, these two documents are life-changing for her. She leaves the low-paying job she’s held for years, instead using her EAD card to find a job that offers her better pay and more reasonable hours. When her mother in Mexico becomes seriously ill, María races back to her hometown and is by her side as she recovers. Most important, María realizes that a weight has been lifted from her: she is no longer terrified that she will be deported any time she sees a police officers on the street.  

Step 3: María’s VAWA petition is approved!  

Less than three years after Eagan Immigration filed María’s VAWA petition, she gets the news that her petition has finally been officially approved! María was warned early on that USCIS sometimes issues a Request for Evidence – meaning, it requires applicants to provide more proof of the abuse they’ve suffered – but Eagan’s thorough approach to María’s petition made this unnecessary in this case. María weeps with relief when an Eagan team member calls to let her know the good news. Because her immediate relative/abuser, Miguel, is a U.S. citizen, María and Eagan Immigration were able to apply for permanent residence in the United States at the same time they filed her VAWA petition. Now, she must just wait to adjust her status.  

Step 4: María gets her green card!   

After receiving notice of her VAWA petition approval, María has only to wait a little longer to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.  In many cases, immigration attorneys wait until after receiving the VAWA approval before filing the I-485 application for permanent residence, but Eagan does this concurrently. As a result, about 15 months after celebrating her VAWA approval, María receives her green card at long last!  

Step 5: María becomes a U.S. citizen at last!  

After five years as a lawful permanent resident in the United States thanks to her VAWA approval, María is eligible to apply for naturalization as a U.S. citizen. It is a moment that for so many years seemed impossible because she had entered the United States without permission more than 30 years before. However, with Eagan Immigration shepherding her through each step of the process, her dreams have become reality. Eagan helps María fill out her Application for Naturalization and provide all the documentation she needs to prove that she has lived continuously in the United States, is a woman of good moral character, and has met all other requirements. On the day that María raises her hand to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, all the staff at Eagan Immigration is behind her in spirit, cheering her on.   

Every immigrant’s story and their circumstances are different. However, Eagan Immigration has now helped more than 1,500 individuals seek legal status in the United States through a variety of avenues, chief among them VAWA self-petitions. That means we’ve seen just about everything when it comes to VAWA cases, and we know how to cope. For people with a lot of exits and entries to the United States or an old removal order, inadmissibility waivers or motions to reopen old cases may be required. However, no matter what the situation, Eagan Immigration is positioned to give you the most up-to-date information on what your best options are for success.  

Interested in finding out if you can go from undocumented immigrant to U.S. citizen, like María? The best way is to pick up the phone and give Eagan Immigration a call at 202-709-6439.