The Violence Against Women Act, which passed into law in 1994, was intended to protect those harmed as a result of domestic crimes. Moreover, it was also designed to reduce the stigma that is often associated with domestic abuse. In the past three decades, Congress has made a number of changes to national immigration laws in effort of offering protections for undocumented individuals harmed by domestic violence or crime.

Under the Immigration Reform Act established in 1990, enacted the battered spouse waiver, where those suffering from domestic abuse are able to obtain a conditional permanent residency, which is based on a marriage to an American citizen, the ability to file a petition to cease the conditionality without the support of the spouse when in an abusive relationship. The Violence Against Women Act (1994) included provisions that would allow undocumented people suffering from domestic abuse obtain immigration relief independent of the abusive parent or spouse through a process referred as self-petitioning.

Obtaining a Lawful Legal Residency Under the Violence Against Women Act

In accordance to the Violence Against Women Act, undocumented people suffering from domestic violence, elder abuse, or child abuse could self-petition to obtain a lawful permanent resident status, which can be done without the support or cooperation of the abusive party. A victim can self-petition even when divorced only if the marriage to the accused was terminated within 2 years of the initiated petition.

An approved petition will provide the inquiring person with the authorization to obtain employment, deferred action, as well as an approved non citizen petition to seek lawful permanent residence.

Self-Petition for Lawful Permanent Residency – Eligibility Requirements

Self-petitions are accessible to the following:

  • Current and previous spouses of abusive lawful permanent residents or citizens. A divorced spouse can self-petition when the marriage termination was associated to the domestic abuse. In these situations, the petition must be filed within 2 years of the dissolution of the union.
  • Minors of abusive permanent residents or abusive citizens who petition before turning the age of 25.
  • Undocumented parent of a harmed undocumented minor, even when the undocumented parent has not been subject to the abuse.
  • Undocumented spouses who have children harmed by the lawful permanent resident parent or citizen parent.

When providing evidence of the abuse, the self-petitioning party will also need to demonstrate the following:

  • Good faith in marriage when the accused is a step-parent or spouse.
  • Relation to the person identified as the abuser.
  • The parent-child relation when the petitioner is identified as the non-abusive undocumented parent whose lawful permanent resident or citizen spouse initiated the abusive behavior.
  • Residence with the party identified as the abuser.
  • The immigration status of the lawful permanent resident, U.S. citizen, and/or underage child.

Consult the Legal Support of a Skilled Immigration Law Attorney

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse and need to self-petition to become a lawful permanent resident, the process can be intimidating, stressful and challenging. Consider seeking the legal support of a qualified attorney for information on how to obtain a permanent residency.

Immigration law Attorney Oliver P. King has committed his career to helping individuals seeking legal immigration services aid. He has helped numerous men and women obtain lawful permanent residency through the Violence Against Women Act. Contact the firm today for a free case evaluation.