Green Cards for Victims of Spousal Abuse
The violence against women act (vawa)
Unfortunately, some U.S. Citizens and legal permanent residents who are married to a foreign spouse tend to misuse their control of this process by abusing their family members, or by threatening to report them to the U.S. immigration. As a result, most battered immigrants are afraid to report the abuse to the police or other authorities
Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed by Congress in 1994, the spouses and children of U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPR) may self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residency. The immigration provisions of VAWA allow certain battered immigrants to file for immigration relief without the abuser’s assistance or knowledge
Who is eligible?
To be eligible to file a self-petition (an application that you file for yourself for immigration benefits) you must qualify under one of the following categories:
- Spouse: You may self-petition if you are a battered spouse married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Unmarried children under the age of 21, who have not filed their own self-petition, may be included on your petition as derivative beneficiaries.
- Parent: You may self-petition if you are the parent of a child who has been abused by your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. Your children (under 21 years of age and unmarried), including those who may not have been abused, may be included on your petition as derivative beneficiaries, if they have not filed their own self-petition
- Child: You may self-petition if you are a battered child (under 21 years of age and unmarried) who has been abused by your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent
What are the basic requirements?
The self-petitioning spouse must be:
- Legally married to the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident batterer. A self-petition may be filed if the marriage was terminated by the abusive spouse’s death within the two years prior to filing. A self-petition may also be filed if the marriage to the abusive spouse was terminated, within the two years prior to filing, by divorce related to the abuse
- Must have been battered in the United States unless the abusive spouse is an employee of the United States government or a member of the uniformed services of the United States
- Must have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage, or must be the parent of a child who was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse during the marriage
- The self-petitioning spouse is required to be a person of good moral character.
- Must have entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits
The self-petitioning child must:
- Qualify as the child of the abuser as “child” is defined in the INA for immigration purposes.
- Any relevant credible evidence that can prove the relationship with the parent will be considered.
What is the process?
The USCIS reviews each petition initially to determine whether the self-petitioner has addressed each of the requirements listed above and has provided some supporting evidence. This may be in the form of a statement that addresses each requirement. This is called a prima facie determination
If USCIS makes a prima facie determination, the self-petitioner will receive a Notice of Prima Facie Determination valid for 150 days. The notice may be presented to state and federal agencies that provide public benefits
Self-petitioners and their derivative children who have an approved petition are eligible for an Employment Authorization Card
Adjustment to Permanent Resident Status:
Self-petitioners who qualify as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21) do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available. They may file to adjust their status to a permanent resident. Self-petitioners who require a visa number to adjust status must wait for a visa number to be available on the Visa Bulletin before filing for adjustment of status
Victims of domestic violence should know that help is also available to them through the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1-800-799-7233
The attorneys at the Law Office of Yuri Tsyganov, PL have extensive experience in all issues concerning immigration law, including petitions by battered and abused immigrants. We know how the immigration process works and the questions you can expect in self-petition proceedings. Do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Yuri Tsyganov, PL today for a Free Consultation.