In the United States, many individuals are impacted by domestic violence with an estimated 10 million people suffering abuse by an intimate partner per year. People of all races, age groups, genders, sexual orientations, religions, education levels, economic status, and immigration status have been subjected to family or domestic violence.
Domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse, but also includes economic, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse. The US government has recognized domestic violence as an important societal problem and various laws have been passed to assist victims from abuse. Under US law, any victim of a crime, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, can call the police to request protection from an abuser either by pressing criminal charges and/or obtaining protection orders.
In addition, victims of domestic violence should discuss their situation with a competent immigration attorney who can analyze their situation and determine whether they are eligible for one or more forms of immigration relief specifically designed to protect victims of domestic violence, such as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, U Visa, Battery/Cruelty Waiver, Affirmative VAWA and VAWA Cancellation.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
Non-citizen children and young adults who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both of their parents in the United States or in their home country may be eligible for a Special Immigrant Juvenile classification. There are many benefits to obtaining SIJ Status as it provides a relatively quick route to obtaining lawful permanent resident status (Green Card) and waives several types of inadmissibility that would otherwise prevent an immigrant child from becoming a lawful permanent resident.
Victims of certain crimes, such as domestic violence and sexual assault, who have assisted US law enforcement or government officials in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activity may be eligible for a U Visa. The U visa status allows non-citizen victims to stay in the United States, obtain employment authorization, and apply for lawful permanent resident status. If an immigrant is successful in obtaining a U Visa, they may also be able to obtain the same classification for certain family members to assist them in obtaining their immigration status.
A Battery/Cruelty Waiver, also known as an I-751 Waiver is available to conditional residents who have been battered or abused by their United States Citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses or parents. This waiver allows battered Green Card holders to leave the abusive relationship without jeopardizing their immigration status and the right to remain in the United States. Unlike the joint filing, a Battery/Cruelty waiver may be filed at any time before or after the conditional residency status of two (2) years expires and regardless of whether USCIS has initiated removal proceedings against them. It can also be requested if the immigrant spouse already filed an application to have their conditions removed and USCIS has not yet made a decision on that application.
The Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) allows certain spouses, children, and parents of United States Citizens and spouses and children of lawful permanent residents to file petition for themselves, without the abuser’s knowledge or consent. Despite its name, VAWA provisions apply equally to women, men, and children and allow victims to seek both safety and independence from their abuser.
VAWA cancellation, also known as Special Rule Cancellation, is designed to stop removal proceedings for victims of abuse by a United States Citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent. Unlike affirmative VAWA applications, VAWA cancellation is only available to individuals in removal proceedings (Immigration Court). If successful, cancellation of removal results in lawful permanent resident status for the victim. Both Affirmative VAWA and VAWA Cancelation waive many of the grounds of inadmissibility, such as failure to be inspected and admitted, working without authorization, or failing to maintain immigration status. This allows such individuals from adjusting their status to that of a lawful permanent resident who would otherwise be unable to obtain a Green Card due to such inadmissibility grounds.
Contact Tourzani Law Group, LLC at (201) 987-0036 to find out if you are eligible to benefit from one of these more lenient forms of immigration relief.