Question: I married what I thought was a very loving man. However, after I came to the U.S., he started beating me. Now he threatens that if I tell anyone, he will have me deported and not help me with my petition. What can I do?
Answer: Generally, U.S. citizens (USC) and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) file an immigrant visa petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of a spouse or child, so that these family members may emigrate to or remain in the United States. Unfortunately, some U.S. citizens and LPRs misuse their control of this process to abuse their family members, or by threatening to report them to the USCIS. 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 United States 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, in order to seek safety and independence from the abuser.
Question: Who is Eligible to file this type of petition?
Answer: 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:
1) The 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.
2) The 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.
3) 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.
Question: What are the Basic Requirements?
Answer: 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.
You 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.
You 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.
You are required to be a person of good moral character. You must have entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.
You should not live in this abuse and fear. There is help which you should seek.