How to File an I-360 "Special Immigrant" or VAWA Green Card Petition

Most people filing Form I-360 will do so as a "self-petition," while in a few cases, a sponsoring organization files the petition.

The I-360 petition is one that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides for foreign nationals wishing to begin the green card (lawful permanent residence) application process within one of the "special immigrant visa" categories (see below), or as an Amerasian, a widow(er) of a U.S. citizen, or a battered/abused spouse, parent, or child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Most people filing Form I-360 will do so as a "self-petition," while in a few cases, a sponsoring organization files the petition.

Who Qualifies as a Special Immigrant?

Despite the generic-sounding name, special immigrants are a somewhat unrelated selection of visa-eligible people found in U.S. immigration law (8 U.S.C. Section 1101(a)(27)) under category EB-4. It includes:

  • workers for recognized religious organizations
  • foreign medical graduates who have lived in the United States for a long time
  • longtime U.S. government employees
  • certain retired officers of employees of international organizations who lived in the U.S. a long time
  • juveniles dependent on U.S. courts
  • people who served honorably, on active U.S. military duty, for 12 years or more after October 15, 1978
  • Panama Canal Treaty employees
  • NATO civilian employees, and
  • people coming to work in the U.S. as broadcasters for the International Broadcasting Bureau.
  • Afghani or Iraqi nationals who supported the U.S. Armed Forces as a translator
  • Iraqi nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq, and
  • Afghan nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan.

Each of these categories must meet its own special requirements in terms of eligibility and documentation, which you'll need to look into before applying. Also see Process to Get a Green Card Under VAWA for the rules on getting a green card as a battered spouse or family member.

The I-360 Application Process

As a first step the applicant, or petitioning organization, should fill out Form I-360, bearing in mind that several sections--those applicable to other categories of applicants--can be left blank.

In Part 1, you'll supply basic information about yourself. Don't worry if you don't have a USCIS Online Account number; only people who've filed certain sorts of applications in the past would have one. Similarly, you should have a Social Security number only if you have or had a legal right to work in the United States.

In Part 2, you'll check a box indicating the basis of your eligibility.

Part 3 asks for more information about you.

In Part 4, you will need to designate a U.S. consulate for processing and interviewing, preferably in the immigrant's home country unless he or she is a resident elsewhere. Fill this in even if the immigrant lives in the U.S., as a backup; not everyone who lives in the U.S. is eligible to complete the green card application process there (called "adjusting status").

Be sure to fill out Part 5, listing your spouse and children, regardless of which category you are applying in. They might be able to get green cards at the same time as you; or if not, you might be able to petition for them later (which will be difficult if you did not reveal their existence in this application).

After this, which sections you will fill out depends mostly on which category you're applying under.

Then be sure to sign in Part 11 (assuming another organization isn't preparing the form for you).

When finished, you must mail the form to USCIS, following the instructions on its website. Along with the form, you must submit the proper supporting documents, as also described by USCIS, in the downloadable instructions to the form.

In some, but not all cases, a fee is required with the I-360 petition ($435 as of 2019, but check for the latest on the USCIS website). The categories of applicants who do not owe a fee with the application include Amerasians; self-petitioning battered or abused spouses, parents, or children; Special Immigrant Juveniles; and Iraqi or Afghan Nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government.

Make a complete copy of everything you send before you mail it (in case it gets lost, which is not uncommon), and do not send original documents unless you do not want them back.

Once your petition is approved, you can file an application for your permanent resident status. Or, if you are already in the U.S. lawfully and are eligible to adjust status, you might be able to send in your application for "adjustment of status" to USCIS concurrently with the I-360, without waiting for it to be approved first.

The procedure for issuing the green card is different if conducted from abroad rather than within the United States. In that case, USCIS will, after approving your I-360, communicate with the National Visa Center and/or your local U.S. consulate, and you will receive further instructions from them.

Supporting Documents Needed With I-360

The documents needed to support your petition will depend on the category of special immigrant under which you are applying.

See Process to Get a Green Card Under VAWA for details on what documents battered spouses and children should provide.

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