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Immigration: Abused Spouse Self-Petitions

Contact a NJ Immigration Attorney for Self-Petitions

An abused spouse or child of a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident can file a “self-petition” under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA).  Abuse means the person was subjected to battery or extreme mental cruelty. In most instances, approval of such a petition will result in the person being eligible for adjustment of status. This even applies for people who entered the United States without inspection. 

VAWA allows certain spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) to file a petition for themselves without the abusers’ knowledge. This will allow you to seek both safety and independence from the abuser. The provisions of VAWA apply equally to women and men. Your abuser will not be notified that you have filed for immigration benefits under VAWA.

Help is also available from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD). The hotline has information about shelters, mental heath care, legal advice and other types of assistance, including information about filing for immigration status.

Those Eligible to File

Spouse: You may file for yourself if you are, or were, the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You may also include on your petition your unmarried children who are under 21 if they have not filed for themselves.

Parent: You may file for yourself if you are the parent of a child who has been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. You may include on your petition your children, including those who have not been abused, if they have not filed for themselves. You may also file if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen, and you have been abused by your U.S. citizen son or daughter.

Child: You may file for yourself if you are an abused child under 21, unmarried and have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent. Your children may also be included on your petition. You may file for yourself as a child after age 21 but before age 25 if you can demonstrate that the abuse was the main reason for the delay in filing.

Eligibility Requirements for a Spouse

You are:

  • married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser

or

  • your marriage to the abuser was terminated by death or a divorce (related to the abuse) within the 2 years prior to filing, or
  • your spouse lost or renounced citizenship or permanent resident status within the 2 years prior to filing due to an incident of domestic violence, or
  • you believed that you were legally married to your abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse but the marriage was not legitimate solely because of the bigamy of your abusive spouse.

You:

  • have been abused in the United States by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, or
  • have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse abroad while your spouse was employed by the U.S. government or a member of the U.S. uniformed services, or
  • are the parent of a child who has been subjected to abuse by your U.S. citizen or permanent spouse.
  • You entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for immigration benefits.
  • You have resided with your spouse.
  • You are a person of good moral character.

Eligibility Requirements for a Child

You:

  • are the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser
  • were the child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident abuser who lost citizenship or lawful permanent resident status due to an incident of domestic violence
  • have been abused in the United States by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent
  • have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent abroad while your parent was employed by the U.S. government or a member of the U.S. uniformed services
  • have resided with the abusive parent
  • have evidence to prove your relationship to your parent
  • must provide evidence of good moral character if you are over the age of 14

Eligibility Requirements for a Parent

  • You are the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter or were the parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who lost or renounced citizenship status related to an incident of domestic violence or died within 2 years prior to filing
  • You have been abused by your U.S. citizen son or daughter
  • You have resided with the abusive son or daughter
  • You are a person of good moral character

Filing Process

You must complete the Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, including all supporting documentation.

You must file the form with the Vermont Service Center (VSC).
Our NJ immigration attorneys can help ensure you meet all filing requirements. If you meet all filing requirements, you will receive a notice (Prima Facie Determination Notice) valid for 150 days that you can present to government agencies that provide certain public benefits to certain victims of domestic violence.

If your Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant  is approved and you do not have legal immigration status in the United States, we may place you in deferred action, which allows you to remain in the United States.

Working in the United States

If you have an approved Form I-360 and have been placed in deferred action, you are eligible to apply to work in the United States. To apply to work in the United States, you must file the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with the Vermont Service Center.

Your children listed on your approved Form I-360, may also apply for work authorization. For more information on working in the United States.

Permanent Residence (Green Card)

If you have an approved Form I-360, you may be eligible to file for a green card. Your children listed on your approved Form I-360 may also be eligible to apply for a green card. For information about filing for a green card, see the Immigration Options for Victims of Crimes Brochure.

At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, PA, our NJ immigration lawyers have successfully represented many self-petitioners.  We can help if you have been the victim of domestic violence or extreme mental cruelty by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, parent, or stepparent.

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