While domestic violence is a prevalent issue in the United States that many women are currently dealing with, immigrant women are especially vulnerable to abuse at the hand of their spouse. Language barriers, lack of financial resources and isolation from family and friends are factors that prevent immigrant women from leaving an abusive relationship. However, the majority, according to a recently released study, feel trapped in physically and mentally abusive marriages because of their immigration status.
According to the recent study, more than 40 percent of Hispanic women reported that their partner’s physical assault against them increased once they immigrated to America. Also, research conducted in New York City showed that in more than half of spouse partner homicides, the victims were foreign.
If you are an immigrant in an abusive relationship, it’s important to know that you have options. Whether your spouse is sponsoring your green card or if you’re currently residing on a temporary visa, your current legal status doesn’t have to determine your personal welfare.
Even if you are a conditional resident, having applied through your spouse, if you are the victim of domestic violence, you have options. USCIS will accept a waiver of your obligation to file jointly with your spouse when you have suffered from domestic violence. Therefore, you do not have to stay in a dangerous or harmful situation to await your opportunity to file to remove the conditions of your permanent residence.
If you have not applied for your lawful permanent residence, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) established by Congress in 1994 provides special protection for victims of abuse who aren’t citizens of the United States. Under this act, victims of abuse can be eligible for lawful status without having to be petitioned by a spouse. Under the VAWA, a battered or abused individual can self petition for legal permanent residency without the cooperation of a spouse by applying to have the joint filing requirement waived.
A VAWA self petitioner must have:
- Must be in good moral character
- The marriage must have been legal and in good faith
- The act or threatened act must have been one of extreme cruelty, including bodily harm, sexual and psychological abuse.
- The petitioner must not be the main perpetrator of violence.
Stop living in fear. You don’t have to continue to live in a hostile and abusive relationship. Immigration laws can be complex, by seeking the help of an experienced immigration attorney and taking advantage of the free resources available, you can seek refuge from an insolent relationship.
Contact Michael Noriega at Bramnick, Rodriguez, Grabas, Arnold & Mangan, LLC for experienced assistance with your immigration matter.