Marriage-based Immigration of Domestic Violence Victims

Many Immigrating fiancé(e)s and spouses are vulnerable to domestic violence because they often face limitations in communication due to language issues, have little access to information, are separated from family and friends back home, and are unaware of their legal rights.

The VAWA provisions allow certain spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents to file a petition for legal status, without the abuser’s knowledge. This allows victims to seek both safety and independence from their abuser, who is not notified about the filing.

All people in the United States, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, are guaranteed basic protections under both civil and criminal law. It is important to call the police at 911 if you or your child(ren) are in danger.

* The VAWA provisions apply equally to women and men.

* Title VIII of VAWA 2005 is entitled, “Protection of Battered and Trafficked Immigrants,” and contains “International Marriage Broker Regulation”  (IMBRA).

Am I eligible to file under VAWA for marriage-based immigration?

If you are married (or were married within the 2 years prior to filing) to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse and you (or your children) have suffered extreme cruelty and/or battery and/or abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, financial etc.) which was committed by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, then you may qualify to file a Form I-360 petition for ‘A Battered or Abused Spouse’.

What is abuse, battery or extreme cruelty?

Following are some examples of abuse and there could be many other subtle ways a spouse could be controlling or abusing their partner with a pattern of violence.

  • Physical (e.g. forcing you to not eat/sleep/leave, threatening to hurt or actually hurting with weapons, harming children, punching/slapping/kicking/biting/choking etc.)
  • Emotional (e.g. isolating, insulting or calling names, humiliating, cheating, controlling/monitoring activities etc.)
  • Sexual (e.g.  rape, molestation, incest (if the victim is a minor), forced prostitution, purposely passing a sexually transmitted disease STD etc.)
  • Financial (e.g. stealing/taking your money, preventing/denying access to money/accounts )
  • Digital (e.g. using methods such as texting, Facebook etc to bully or harass you, steals/forces to have personal account passwords etc.)
  • Reproductive coercion (e.g. lying about, sabotaging, or refusing/forcing to use birth control, forcing to get or preventing from getting abortion etc.)

What is the filing process?

  • Filing of the completed Form I-360 along with required supporting documentation; some of the important documents include-
    • Evidence of the abuser’s U.S. citizenship or green card status
    • Evidence of abuse, such as any reports/affidavits from police, court, medical personnel, clergy, social workers etc.
    • Evidence of good faith at the time of marriage (You must have entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for immigration benefits) may include, but is not limited to * both spouses on insurance policies, property leases * income tax forms and/or bank accounts * testimony or other evidence regarding courtship, wedding ceremony, shared residence and experiences * birth certificates of children born to the abuser and the spouse * affidavits of persons with personal knowledge of the relationship.
    • Evidence of the extreme hardship resulting from your removal/deportation
  • If you are living abroad at the time of filing the self-petition, you may file Form I-360 if:
    • the abuser is an employee of the U.S. government,
    • the abuser is a member of the uniformed services, or
    • you were subjected to battery or extreme cruelty in the United States.

If you are a self-petitioning spouse or child and you meet all filing requirements, you will receive a notice (Prima Facie Determination Notice) valid for 150 days that you can present to government agencies that provide certain public benefits to certain victims of domestic violence.

What happens after filing?

If you have an approved Form I-360, you are eligible to apply to work in the United States. In addition, if you have an approved Form I-360 and have been placed in deferred action (because you do not have legal immigration status), you are eligible to apply to work in the United States and must file Form I-765 ‘Application for Employment Authorization to obtain your EAD. Your children listed on your approved Form I-360, may also apply for work authorization.

Permanent Residence (Green Card)

If you have an approved Form I-360, you may be eligible to file for a green card. If you are a self-petitioning spouse or child, your children listed on your approved Form I-360 may also be eligible to apply for a green card.

Christian Y. Alvarez Law firm has successfully handled many such cases and invites you to discuss details of your case with us via phone or in person at our Times Square office.