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Immigration options for battered or abused spouses

Physical and emotional abuse between married couples is not only a sensitive subject but it can become rather complex when the party being subjected to the abuse is an immigrant.  As a result, in 1994, Congress passed legislation known as the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) creating special provisions in order to protect battered noncitizens.  Under VAWA, battered non-citizens who are married to, or recently divorced from United States Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents can, in certain circumstances, self-petition (without the help or knowledge of their abusive spouse) to obtain Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card).

Generally, there are certain requirements that must be demonstrated to be eligible for a VAWA self-petition.  First, there must have been a relationship between the abusive U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident and the applicant, such as a spouse or children and in some circumstances even parents.  Second, the abuser must have subjected the applicant to battery or extreme cruelty.  Also, the couple must have entered into a good faith marriage and not for purposes of obtaining immigration status.  Further, the applicant must demonstrate they have good moral character, which can be established through criminal records that the applicant may or may not have.  The applicant also needs to demonstrate that they reside in the United States and were living with their abuser. 

VAWA self-petitions apply to both males and females if at a minimum, the above criteria is met.