Domestic violence is a serious problem in the United States. However, not everyone affected by domestic violence is a U.S. citizen. If you are facing violence at home, but are worried that reporting it could cause problems for your immigration status, you may have options.
Violence Against Women Act
If you were abused by a family member who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you may qualify for assistance under the Violence Against Women Act. VAWA helps numerous victims of violence, including men, by ensuring that they will be safe - and not face deportation - when they seek to escape an abuser.
If you are approved, you will be eligible to remain in the country, even if you are not here legally, with the option to seek work. You may also be eligible to apply for a green card.
Spouses, parents and children can apply
Under VAWA, certain relatives of U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents are eligible for protection. Those who can apply include:
- Individuals who were abused by their spouse, who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Parents whose children were abused by their spouse, who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Children who are under 21, and in some cases up to age 25, and were abused by a parent who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Parents who were abused by their child or children, who are citizens or permanent residents
It is also possible to seek protection if your abuser has recently died. An attorney can help explain if your specific situation makes you eligible.
How to apply?
In order to apply, you must fill out form I-360, a Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. You must then submit the form to the Vermont Service Center and wait for approval.
Staying safe during the process
If you are seeking safety from an abusive family member, it is important to know that he or she will not be notified of your application. The process is confidential. Only you, and possibly your attorney, will know about it.
Getting help with the process
Finding relief from an abuser is extremely important. You deserve to be safe and happy. To ensure your form is filled out correctly, it may be helpful to work with an experienced immigration lawyer. Your lawyer can make sure your paperwork is completed and submitted properly and on time while also ensuring your rights are protected throughout the process.