The federal government offers protection for women in abusive relationships, so you may be able to self-petition for a green card if you are experiencing violence at the hands of your spouse.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services explains that the Violence Against Women Act assists women in obtaining the legal and financial help they often need to escape.
Meeting criteria for VAWA protection
Regardless of your legal status, the rights afforded by the VAWA may assist you. Some of the basic elements to press forward under VAWA are:
- You believe your marriage is legal
- The abuser is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident
- You live with your spouse
- You and/or your children have suffered abuse at the hands of your spouse
- You did not marry to become a U.S. citizen
- You do not have any serious criminal convictions
If you fit these requirements, you may apply for protection from your spouse and from deportation under VAWA.
Becoming a citizen on your own
Perhaps your spouse has prevented you from applying for U.S. citizenship and is using your illegal residency to maintain control over you. If this is the case, applying for protection under VAWA may not only help you escape an abusive relationship, but it may also put you on the path to becoming a U.S. citizen.
Once you petition for protection, you may receive a temporary visa allowing you to remain in the country until the criminal case against your spouse resolves. This visa will also allow you to petition for citizenship to stay in the U.S.
The USCIS will not share any information you provide with your application to third parties, so you do not have to worry about your spouse learning of your claims. The USCIS cannot deny your application based only on what your spouse says about you. You may need to provide evidence of your abuser’s harmful acts.