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Victims of Domestic Violence: How To Self-Petition for a Green Card for Battered or Abused Spouse

In this video, we explain the process of obtaining a green card if you have been a victim of domestic violence.

As a battered spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen, you may self-petition for an immigrant visa petition under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), without the abuser’s knowledge. If you have an approved petition, you may be eligible to file for a Green Card.

Overview: 

Generally if you have been the victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, as a spouse of a US Citizen, you may still apply for your green card (self-petition) without the US Citizen spouse, by filing the I-360 petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Once approved, you may file for permanent residency. A VAWA petition may be filed regardless of gender.

Typically when a foreign national marries a US Citizen, the couple will either go through the adjustment of status process to become a permanent resident, or go through consular processing if the beneficiary is living abroad. In situations where the US Citizen is abusive to their spouse, this process often does not go as planned and the couple separates before the green card process has concluded. Unfortunately many of these victims of violence worry about their immigration status and remain in the abusive relationship. Victims of domestic violence and/or verbal abuse should be aware that they can seek help, and that the law is on their side. Victims of violence who choose to leave an abusive relationship do not need to worry that their immigration status will be jeopardized.

The number one solution for someone who is being abused in a relationship is to self-petition for the I-360 application which will allow the victim to obtain a green card under the VAWA program. If you are currently in the process of receiving your green card or your spouse has filed the I-130 petition, you may leave the marriage, and still file the I-360 petition. In these situations you may ask the immigration officer to hold your adjustment of status petition in “abeyance,” while your I-360 petition is approved.

Eligibility Requirements 

(1) The marriage between the US Citizen and foreign national must be a bona fide marriage (not entered to gain an immigration benefit)

(2) The beneficiary must have suffered some form of abuse (physical, mental, emotional abuse) supported by police reports, psychological evaluations, affidavits from witnesses and friends, etc.

(3) The beneficiary must be a person of good moral character (not committed any crimes).

You may file this petition if:

You are the victim of abuse, battery, or extreme cruelty committed by:

  • A U.S. citizen spouse or former spouse;
  • A U.S. citizen parent;
  • A U.S. citizen son or daughter;
  • A lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or former spouse; or
  • An LPR parent.

For more information please click here. 

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