Green Card For Battered Spouses: VAWA and Form I-360

US immigration law has special provisions to help battered spouses of US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents gain LPR status without their spouse's cooperation. The United States is committed to ensuring the safety and rights of individuals in abusive relationships regardless of their immigration status.

What is the VAWA?

VAWA stands for the “Violence Against Women Act” which was passed in 1994 by Congress. The legislation included provisions to protect the non-citizen spouses of abusive Americans or Lawful Permanent Residents.In 2000 the provisions were updated in the Battered Immigrant Women's Protection Act. The legislation addresses the fact that often a spouse's immigration status has been used as blackmail to threaten and coerce a dependent; the Act seeks to remedy this by allowing abuse victims to self-petition. Though the act specifically addresses women's rights, Form I-360 is applicable to both male and female victims of spousal abuse.

The Act states that immigrants who demonstrate that they have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by their US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses may file their own petitions for visas without the cooperation of their abusive spouse. Minor children abused by their citizen or lawful permanent resident parent and whose immigration status, like that of the abused spouse, would otherwise be dependent on the abusive parent, have similar rights.

Under VAWA, battered non-citizens who are married to or recently divorced from US Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents can in certain circumstances self-petition (without the help or knowledge of their abusive spouse) to obtain Lawful Permanent Residence (become a green card holder) or to remove the condition on their 2-year Conditional Permanent Residence cards.

What is a Form I-360?

Form I-360 allows a battered spouse to petition to have the ability to file her/his own immigration petitions instead of being forced to rely on the abusive partner's petitioning power.

Battered Spouse Green Card Application Process

For a battered spouse, the first step toward becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident is to file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian,Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, with the USCIS. An approval would allow the battered spouse to self-petition for an adjustment of status so that it would not be necessary to rely on the abusive spouse's petitioning power.

To file Form I-360 as a battered spouse, you must be able to show:

  • Proof your spouse is/was a US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
  • Evidence of your legal relationship with the abuser (marriage, divorce, or birth certificates)
  • Evidence that you and your abuser lived together in the US
  • Evidence that you are currently residing in the US
  • Evidence of the abuse/abusive relationship
  • Your affidavit of good moral character, police clearance, and a background check
  • Relevant credible evidence of the hardship you would suffer if deported
  • Evidence that your marriage was entered into upon good faith

After the I-360 is approved, a battered spouse may file an I-485 Petition directly in order to obtain Lawful Permanent Resident status/a green card.

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