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petition for battered spouses

Battered or Abused Spouses or Children of U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed by Congress in 1994, the spouses and children of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPR) may self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residency. The immigration provisions of VAWA allow certain battered immigrants to file for immigration relief without the abuser's assistance or knowledge, in order to seek safety and independence from the abuser.

You may self-petition for immediate relative or family-sponsored immigrant classification if you:

  1. Are now the spouse or child of an abusive U.S. citizen or LPR;
  2. Are eligible for immigrant classification based on that relationship;
  3. Are now residing in the U.S. or have resided in U.S. with the U.S. citizen or LPR abuser in the past;
  4. Have been battered by or have been the subject of extreme cruelty perpetrated by:
    1. Your U.S. citizen or LPR spouse during the marriage, or are the parent of a child who has been battered by or has been the subject of extreme cruelty perpetrated by your abusive citizen or LPR spouse during your marriage;
    2. Your citizen LPR parent while residing with that parent;
  5. Are a person of good moral character;
  6. Are the person whose removal or deportation would result in extreme hardship to yourself, or to your child if you are a spouse; and
  7. If you are a spouse, entered into the marriage to the citizen or LPR abuser in good faith.

Note:  Divorce or other legal termination of the marriage to the abuser AFTER the self-petition is properly filed with USCIS will not be the sole basis for denial or revocation of an approved self-petition.  After the approval of the self-petition by USCIS, remarriage is permitted and will NOT affect eligibility to become an LPR or be grounds for revocation of the approved self-petition.

To be eligible, the self-petitioning spouse must:

  1. Be legally married to the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident batterer. A self-petition may be filed if the marriage was terminated by the abusive spouse's death within the two years prior to filing. A self-petition may also be filed if the marriage to the abusive spouse was terminated, within the two years prior to filing, by divorce related to the abuse;
  2. Have been battered in the United States, unless the abusive spouse is an employee of the United States government or a member of the uniformed services of the United States;
  3. Have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage, or must be the parent of a child who was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse during the marriage;
  4. Be a person of good moral character;
  5. Have entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.

To be eligible, the self-petitioning child must qualify as the child of the abuser as "child" is defined in the INA for immigration purposes.

Your self-petition may be filed with any credible relevant evidence of eligibility.  The determination of what evidence is within the sole discretion of USCIS; therefore, you are encouraged to provide documentation that proves the abuse. For complete information please, click here.

Glossary of Visa Terms

  • Glossary of Visa Terms

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