If your fairy tale wedding to a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder ends in disaster and that spouse gradually turns into an abusive monster, there are laws in place to protect immigrant men and women victims of battery and domestic violence.
Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), you may be eligible to become a lawful permanent resident (get a Green Card) if you are the victim of battery or extreme cruelty committed by:
The abused alien victim may file for immigration protection without the assistance of the abusive family member.
To file for battered spouse status, Form I-360 Self-Petition is used and may be filed together with Form I-485 for Adjustment of Status for green card application.
These two forms may be filed together and also be filed together with Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization.
Domestic violence is sometimes confused with purely physical violence or abuse. But this is incorrect because spousal abuse within the context of immigration law may be physical, emotional and financial (or just emotional, or even just financial) and still will qualify an alien for VAWA approval.
Abuse may happen in same-sex marriage and hetero marriage and is treated the same for purposes of VAWA.
There may not even be a police report or arrest records for the abuser, but with other strong evidence, there is a chance to be approved for the I-360 VAWA Self-Petition.
There are 4 elements to VAWA Relief Eligibility:
The self-petitioner must show she entered into marriage with the US citizen or LPR for love and to create a family together and NOT for immigration benefits. This kind of marriage is called a bona fide marriage in the US immigration legal system. Proofs of the bona fide marriage (sometimes referred to as bona fides) may include joint tax returns filed with the abusive spouse, joint lease agreements, joint deeds, joint utility bills, joint bank statements and credit card statements, joint travel itineraries, joint insurance policies, wills and life insurance policies, joint invoices or receipts for significant purchases, family photos, and witness letters.
To prove eligibility for VAWA, a self-petitioner must demonstrate that she suffered abuse by the hands of the USC or LPR, and that usually includes police reports, arrest reports, orders of protection, evidence of threats, evidence of harassment, evaluation reports by treating medical professionals, counselor or psychologist, witness statements, and other relevant evidence.
Good moral character can be shown by submitting a police clearance or good conduct certificate from every place where petitioner lived for longer than 6 months in the last 3 years, letters from charity organizations where petitioner attended, volunteers or contributes to, or letters from religious organizations showing that the petitioner attends services and does good deeds.
What are some benefits of filling under VAWA:
Removal of conditions on green card based on VAWA extreme cruelty waiver of joint filing requirements
USCIS will consider your statement and all the evidence you submitted for your VAWA based I-751 and may interview you for the issuance of a permanent (unconditional) green card. If your case is well documented and all the information submitted (addresses, time periods, etc.) matches data you listed in all earlier USCIS filings, you will succeed in removing conditions on your lawful permanent residence on your own, without your abusive spouse.