A fiance visa or marriage visa can be an exciting opportunity to begin a new life in a new country. It can offer stability, new employment opportunities, and a bright future for you and your family.
But for an unfortunate few, the marriage green card process can turn into a nightmare. The visa process depends upon the partner who is a US citizen filing a petition in support of their partner. Called an I-130 petition, it allows the partner to file for their green card.
Unfortunately, abusive partners may threaten to withdraw this petition, leaving the non-citizen’s immigration status and future uncertain. Here, we’ll discuss what your options are in the case of an abusive partner, and how you can protect your rights and legally remain in the United States.
Before You Obtain A Green Card
When you apply for a marriage visa, there is a period where you live in the US without a green card as your I-130 petition is processed. If your spouse threatens to withdraw this petition before you have received your green card, you could be at risk of deportation.
The Law Is On Your Side
Fortunately, there is a law in place to protect victims of abuse. Called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), it was passed in 1994 to offer a wide range of protection to women and their children who suffer from domestic abuse. Part of this protection relates to immigrants who are threatened and abused by their partner.
The VAWA allows spouses and intended spouses of US citizens to obtain a green card without a petition of support. That means that you can obtain a green card, even if you get divorced before the marriage visa process is complete.
The qualifications for this self-petition (called form I-360) are:
- You are married to or plan to marry an American citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
- You are a person of “good moral character”
- Your marriage (you didn’t marry just for the sake of citizenship, or any other fraudulent reason)
- You were subject to battery or cruelty by the American citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
- You live or have lived in the United States
- The abuse occurred within the United States, or, if the abuse occurred outside of the United States, the abuser is a government employee or member of the armed force
Your children can also file their own I-360 form, under the following conditions
- They have a parent-child relationship with the abusive partner
- They are a person of “good moral character”
- Has lived with the abusive partner
- The abuse occurred while living with the
- They reside in the United States
- If the reside outside of the United States, the abusive parent is a government employee or member of the armed forces
- They are under 21 and are not married
Your child need not file a separate I-360, however, and can receive the same status adjustment as you, even if they were not abused. This protects families, and allows women who have been abused to keep their children with them, even if the children were not around the abusive partner.
Who qualifies and when can vary, so it’s best to contact an experienced immigration attorney so that you know your rights and pursue the best legal strategy to obtain lawful residence in the case of abuse.
Abuse By A Child
If you are abused by one of your children, you are also eligible to file an I-360 form, so long as the child is older than 21 and a United States citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. You must meet the following conditions:
- You are a person of “good moral character”
- You currently live with the child, or have in the past
- You were subject to battery or abuse by the child
What Counts As Abuse
You may feel that your partner is abusive towards you or your children, but not know if you qualify for protection. Abuse, however, does not have to come with physical trauma or evidence.
If your partner is verbally threatening you, forcing sexual intercourse, or psychologically abusing you, this could be considered abusive behavior and qualify you for VAWA protections. Any evidence you have of this abuse, such as messages, voicemails, or notes, should be be saved, as it could be crucial when you present your case to obtain a green card.
Step Toward Citizenship
A self-petition through an I-360 form will make you a Lawful Permanent Resident, meaning you won’t yet be a United States citizen. However, you can file for naturalization and become a citizen just three years after you obtain your green card. This also applies to any children that are listed on the I-360 form you filed.
When in Doubt, Contact an Immigration Attorney
Knowing what you options are can be difficult after abuse. It is a scary, uncertain time for you and your family. That’s why you should contact a skilled immigration attorney right away.
At Monument Immigration, we have years of experience working with immigration law from all different angles. We can help guide you through the visa process, and will fight to protect your rights every step of the way.
We know that time is of the essence when it comes to getting your case ready. That’s why we work quickly to ensure that you and your case are fully prepared.
Our sole focus is on immigration law. Contact us today.