Abusive marriages are more common than most people realize. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates that 10 million people in the U.S. are victims of physical abuse each year, with women making up the majority of this group. Unfortunately, many victims remain in or return to abusive relationships because they feel trapped by their economic and immigration statuses.
Fortunately, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides a way for victims of abusive marriages to self-petition for permanent resident status. VAWA enables eligible individuals to file without their spouse’s involvement, meaning they don’t have to rely on the abuser in order to pursue immigration relief.
VAWA Adjustment of Status
Typically, the family-based immigration process requires permanent residents and U.S. citizens to file a petition for their non-citizen spouses. Unfortunately, abuse victims may be unable to get an abusive spouse to help them petition for permanent residence. An abusive spouse may even withhold help as a way to further control the victim.
Abuse victims in this situation may be able to self-petition through the Violence Against Women Act. To be eligible for this type of immigration relief, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they meet the following criteria:
- They are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- They entered into the marriage in good faith
- The abuse happened during the marriage
- They currently reside in the United States
- They have good moral character
In addition to the above criteria, applicants must also demonstrate that they have suffered extreme cruelty or abuse during their marriage. Common examples of abuse can include physical violence, verbal and emotional abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
Individuals may still qualify for a VAWA green card if they divorce the abusive spouse. As long as the marriage ended within the last two years, the abuse was the reason for the marriage ending, and the other criteria are met, a divorced person may still qualify.
If you are a victim of abuse, it is important to understand your legal rights and options. Seeking immigration relief through VAWA can be a lifesaving option that allows victims to escape their abusers without sacrificing their dreams of becoming a permanent resident in the United States. Immigration attorneys can provide invaluable assistance by helping victims properly prepare and submit an immigrant visa petition. With the right legal guidance, victims of abuse can gain access to the permanent resident status they deserve.
Contact an Illinois Adjustment of Status Lawyer
If you are a victim of abuse, you understand the importance of finding a way out of your situation. The Illinois immigration attorneys at Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices can help abuse victims seek permanent resident status through VAWA self-petitioning. Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the process, providing the legal advice and support you need. Call [[phone]] for a free consultation.