Immigrant victims of domestic abuse have other options

On behalf of The Spagui Law Firm posted in blog on Monday, March 26, 2018.

Domestic violence is abuse within the household or family. Some Illinois immigrants find themselves in a difficult situation with spouses, children or parents who commit domestic violence, but their status can make them afraid to report it. The family member who is a citizen or permanent resident may threaten to send the rest of their family back to their former country if they speak up about abuse.

However, immigrants do not have to stay stuck within the control of this family member. The Violence Against Women provides an alternative to seeking residency in the U.S. if you are a victim of domestic abuse. Furthermore, the act does not only protect women, but it protects men and children as well. If you qualify, you may receive deportation protection through an immigrant visa petition.

Who can file for this protection?

For parents, spouses and children of an abuser, there are generally four main requirements to file for an immigrant visa petition, including:

  1. You are related or married to the abuser
  2. You have lived with the abuser
  3. The abuser attacked you or caused you to suffer severe cruelty
  4. You have good moral character, free from major crime or immigration fraud

It is important to note that even if you thought that you were officially married to your spouse, but later discover that the marriage was unofficial, you can still file as a spouse. Furthermore, if the abuser lost their status, died or divorced you, some situations allow you to file for this petition within the following two years.

My family member only abused me. What would happen to my children?

If your children were not victims of abuse, their safety may still be at stake. For this reason, the USCIS allows immigrant parents to include their children under 21 years of age on their application. If you receive approval, your children will also receive protection.

How can I take this action?

To apply for protection, you will need to carefully complete Form I-360. If USCIS approves the petition, you will receive protection from deportation, but you will not necessarily have legal status. However, you and your children might then apply for a green card to earn legal status. Seeking legal counsel can help you understand your options as a victim of domestic violence.