Toxic and abusive relationships can be damaging to the victim and any children who witness the abuse, both physically and mentally. It can be difficult to achieve the fresh start you are looking for in the United States if an abuser has power over whether or not you obtain legal immigrant status. A battered spouse petition is a petition that someone may file under the VAWA. It is a layer of protection for people suffering from abuse but seeking immigration into the United States or citizenship. If you are dealing with abuse and trying to obtain a green card or citizenship, contact an immigration attorney in NYC for legal advice and representation.

What is the VAWA?

VAWA stands for the Violence Against Women Act. It was passed into law in 1994 by United States President Clinton. Its intention is to offer protection for those who may not be able to protect themselves, such as victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.

Before the VAWA if one family member was a legal resident of the U.S. then they would typically file the immigration petition on behalf of the rest of the family. However, this all too often gave an abuser substantial power over their victim since they controlled their ability to become a lawful resident. The VAWA allowed a noncitizen who was experiencing abuse by their partner or relative to file a petition independently without the knowledge of the abuser. It helps aid in their search for legal status and safety.

Who Can File a Battered Spouse Petition?

There are certain qualifications that a person must meet to file a battered spouse petition under the VAWA. The following people can file a petition under the following circumstances.

  • A spouse may file a self-petition if they suffered abuse at the hands of a permanent U.S. resident or if the resident abused your child. Any unmarried children under the age of 21 years can be included in your petition.
  • A parent can file the petition if their child is a U.S. resident and abused or committed violence against them.
  • An unmarried child under the age of 21 can self-petition if they were abused by their parent who is a U.S. resident. If you are between the ages of 21 and 25 you may also petition if the abuse was the reason for your delayed filing.

How Can I Apply?

To apply you must file Form I-360, the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. There is no fee associated with this application. You must include evidence to prove that you qualify including proof of your relationship with the resident, that you endured abuse or violence because of this person, and that you are currently or did reside with them.

Work with an experienced attorney who is well-versed in your rights and the law to ensure that you are following the proper channels and getting approved to guarantee your safety and residency in the United States.