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Special Immigration Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse

Please note, clients with these cases will be referred to another attorney.

U.S. citizens and noncitizens who hold a green card often use the immigration process to further abuse committed against family members. They control, coerce, and intimate spouses, children, and parents by threatening to withdraw or withhold their family member’s petition for a green card. However, the law recognizes this and provides relief for victims of domestic violence.

Family law attorneys who represent anyone who may be suffering from abuse at the hands of spouse, former spouse, parent, or child need to be aware of the opportunity this provides for victims to become independent from their abusers and find safety.

Relief for Victims

It goes without saying that gaining status as a lawful permanent resident with a green card is a goal for many immigrants in the U.S. The first step to obtaining a green card for most people is to have a family member petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on their behalf. This family connection is critical, and abusers know this.

However, under the regulations supporting the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) certain victims of abuse can petition for a green card on their own, without the support or even the knowledge of their abusive family member. Even if an earlier immigration petition filed on their behalf was denied, a victim of abuse can still file a new petition on their own behalf.

Eligibility to Self-Petition for a Green Card

The option to self petition is open to:

  • Spouses of abusive U.S. citizens or green card holders
  • Former spouses of abusive U.S. citizens or green card holders (if the marriage ended in death or divorce within the previous two years)
  • Individuals who believed they were married to an abusive U.S. citizen or green card holder but the marriage was not legitimate due to bigamy on the part of the abusive spouse
  • Parents of an abusive U.S. citizen or green card holder who is at least 21-years-old
  • Children of an abusive U.S. citizen or green card holder

The individual petitioning on their own behalf must currently or formerly have lived with the abusive relative and they must have been subjected to “battery or extreme cruelty.” (A spouse may also petition if their child was subjected to battery or extreme cruelty.)

In addition, the individual who wants to petition must present the right evidence to demonstrate good moral character, and those petitioning on the basis of a marriage must also prove that they entered the marriage in good faith.

Help with Immigration Questions

Proving eligibility for a green card or any form of immigration relief can be a challenge, which is why so many people work with dedicated immigration attorneys during the process. If you have a client you believe may qualify for assistance under VAWA or other provisions, schedule a consultation with me and we can strategize to find the best options. Although my offices are based in Florida, I work with clients all over the country.

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