Protection for abused immigrant spouses, parents and children

Being in an abusive relationship is frightening. Getting out of one can be terrifying. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, be sure you know your rights as an immigrant in case you need to get out of an abusive situation.

The facts of abuse
Domestic violence doesn’t only refer to physical harm, it is a general behavior pattern developed to exhibit power over another person in a relationship. This could be something as small as the abuser telling you you can’t talk to another guy. He will use tactics like shame, guilt and ridicule to lower your self-esteem. Frequently, when you are feeling guilty, he then lifts you up and makes you feel like he is there for you.

If you feel that your spouse or partner is abusive, it is important to get out of the situation as soon as possible.

Immigration protection
A battered parent, spouse or child may file an immigrant visa petition under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This means that if you are the parent, spouse or child of a person with U.S. citizenship who is abusive, you can file for a visa without the knowledge of the abuser. You don’t have to worry about being alone without documentation. You’re safety and security is protected.

How to file
If you meet the requirements that are listed on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, you must file Form I-360, the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant status and all supporting documents. The form must be filed with the Vermont Service Center. If your petition is approved and you are not a legal resident of the U.S., you may be placed under a deferred action, which will allow you to remain in the country. The bottom line is, you do not have to worry about deportation if you are fleeing an abusive relationship.