Wilner & O'Reilly, APLC - Immigration Attorneys In California And Utah
One Practice. One Focus. One Passion: Immigration Law.

Permanent Residency Available to Victims of Physical or Emotional Abuse

Jenny spoke with emotion and she had every reason to as she tried to relay her immigration story. She had entered the United States as a student where she met a young U.S citizen in one of her night classes. They quickly fell in love and married. Unfortunately, Jenny soon saw a different side of her husband, a side much different then the carefree and funny man she came to love.

He had a temper and would curse at her and call her names in public and at home. She tried to rationalize that he was just under pressure from school and work. But the verbal abuse continued to increase in severity and occasion. He refused her access to their bank account, told her to stay in the house and not to go anywhere leaving her without money and transportation. He chose her friends and decided when and where she could go out. He was controlling every facet of her life and if she didn't like it he would call the Immigration Service and have her deported. Home was a prison.

Spousal abuse is increasingly common and immigrants have not been spared this national tragedy. In the traditional family-based petition process immigrants must rely on their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse to file applications, putting them in a particularly vulnerable position. The abused spouse may stay with their abuser simply because they fear deportation. They stay not realizing that they may be entitled to residency on their own, without having to rely upon their abuser spouse.

With this in mind Congress passed Violence Against Women Act or VAWA creating a new self-petitioning process allowing the abused spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident or a U.S citizen, or the parent of an abused child, to file a family preference visa petition on his or her own behalf without the involvement of the abusive spouse or parent.

Under VAWA a self-petitioner has to show that she or he has good moral character, entered into a marriage with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in good faith, was the victim of abuse or the parent of a victim of abuse and would suffer extreme hardship if deported. Recent amendments to the Act no longer require a self-petitioner to be married to his or her abuser at the time he or she files the self-petition; he or she may have been divorced from the abuse for up to two years, as long as there is a "connection" between the divorce and the abuse suffered.

To file under this provision a self-petitioner must have suffered physical abuse or was subject to extreme cruelty. This includes "being the victim of any act or threatened act of violence, including any forceful detention, which results or threatens to result in physical or mental injury. Acts of violence include psychological abuse and exploitation.

When filing an I-360 petition as a battered spouse certain evidence must be included to support the claim. Evidence of battering or extreme cruelty may include any credible evidence of such. Reports and affidavits from police, judges and other courts, officials, medical personnel, school officials, clergy, social workers and other social service agency personnel.

Other evidence may include orders of protection, evidence of seeking refuge in a battered women's shelter, photographs of injuries, letters from witnesses and any other evidence that may show a pattern of abuse and violence.

I-360 self-petition for battered spouses empowers those who previously had no control over their destiny, now they know they do.

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