If you are experiencing family violence, you should not have to worry that asking for help could jeopardize your immigration status. If the person battering you is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, the U.S. government may allow you to get a green card (lawful permanent resident status) of your own. That way, your immigration status can’t be used against you.
This is due to a federal law called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), although you do not have to be a woman to benefit from VAWA’s protections. VAWA offers green cards to many people who are victims of battery or extreme cruelty 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 spouse or former spouse
- A lawful permanent resident parent
In order to apply, you need to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. An immigration attorney can help you file these forms. Your abuser will not be notified that you have applied for VAWA protection.
In order to adjust your status to lawful permanent residency (green card), you must also be:
- Physically in the United States
- Eligible to receive an immigrant visa
- Not barred from adjustment of status
- Admissible to the United States or seeking a waiver of inadmissibility (the Public Charge and Entry Without Exception grounds for inadmissibility do not apply)
- Someone who merits a favorable exercise of discretion by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
There must also be an immigrant visa immediately available once the USCIS makes its decision. If you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, a visa is always available for people who otherwise qualify.
The VAWA program can be a lifeline for people suffering from abuse at the hands of spouses or family members, but it can be hard to navigate the process. An immigration attorney can help.
If you are interested in seeking VAWA protection, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience with these petitions.