Immigration through a U.S. citizen or permanent-resident family member usually requires that the citizen or permanent resident file a petition on behalf of the relative. This means the citizen or permanent resident controls the immigration process. In relationships in which domestic violence has occurred, this control can be abused by the citizen or permanent resident through threats of revoking or delaying the immigration process or of deportation.
Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in part to help victims of domestic violence gain permanent-resident status independently of their abusive citizen or permanent-resident family member.
Petitions under the act are filed with Citizenship and Immigration Services. The applicant must submit extensive documentation to prove the relationship was abusive.
A strong petition is difficult to compose because of the nature and extent of the proof required. The need to document the abuse could cause the victimized person to relive painful memories. Counseling could help the abused relative deal with the long-term effects of the abuse.
If the petition is approved, the battered spouse, child or parent may apply for permanent residency. The history of each applicant will determine if, how and when he or she can apply for an adjustment of status. While the person waits for the opportunity to file for permanent residence, the person is granted deferred-action status. While maintaining this status, the person cannot be deported and may apply for employment authorization.
Last update: Sept. 24, 2008
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