March 29, 2010: Abused Foreign National
Abused Foreign National Has Options for Green Card status VAWA / Violence Against Women’s Act
My friend is married to a US citizen for two years this coming May. Her green card has a date of 1/11/09 on it and then her status will expire. She caught her husband talking to other women and has asked for divorce. He is unwilling to grant her a divorce. He verbally abuses her and she feels obligated to have sex with him as he threatens her with deportation.
Would it be wise for her to leave him and file for divorce now? She thinks she has to just take it until she can leave with no problems from immigration because she got her green card through marriage. What are her options as it applies to her green card status?
There is never a good reason for a person, including a foreign national, to stay in an abusive relationship. That is why there are certain United States immigration laws that protect foreign nationals who are in abusive relationships. These laws allow foreign nationals to leave the abusive relationship and protect
themselves while also providing them with a way to remain in the United States in legal status.
For foreign nationals who are not yet lawful permanent residents, but who are abused by their United States citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, they may file a Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) self-petition. VAWA is available to both men and women. It allows them to self-petition go through the green card process all on their own. For persons who have been granted lawful permanent residency on a conditional basis (temporary green card) because their marriage was less than two years old at the time permanent residency was granted, that person can file an I-751 petition to remove conditions and request a waiver of the joint filing requirements based on the battering and extreme cruelty if the abuse rises to that level.
The law does not require your friend to remain married to her spouse if she is being battered and subjected to extreme cruelty. However, in addition to documentation of the relationship, she will have to provide evidence of the abuse, including police reports, restraining orders, medical records, and any other records that prove the abuse.
There are several other waivers of the joint filing requirement for the I-751 petition. It may be best for your friend to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to discuss the specific facts of her case and the relationship with her husband to determine what is the best option for the I-751.
Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys