If you are in an abusive relationship but are afraid leaving your spouse will jeopardize your or your children’s immigration status, you are not alone. The law is on your side, and an experienced attorney can help you break free from your abuser’s control and secure your immigration status.
Abuse can take many forms -- physical harm, forced sexual relations, emotional manipulation (including isolation or intimidation), and economic and/or immigration-related threats; the law recognizes this and provides an escape. There are three ways immigrants who become victims of domestic abuse may apply for legal immigration status:
- Self-petitions for legal status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
- Cancellation of removal (also known as deportation) under the VAWA
- U-nonimmigrant status for victims of crime
A lawyer can help you determine which option is right for you and your children, and help you file the appropriate documents. All of the options above are confidential, so your abuser and other people will not know you have applied unless you tell him or her.
Marriage is not supposed to be a trap. Your immigration status should not prevent you from leaving a relationship that is harmful to you or your children.
If you or your children are in immediate danger, do not hesitate to call 911. Tell the police what you fear is about to happen, and be prepared to tell them about any abuse that has happened in the past. The police may arrest your spouse, and/or other people, if a crime has been committed. Once you are out of harm’s way, you can seek legal assistance from an attorney to help you gain a more permanent solution to your problems.
If you are not in immediate danger, it is a good idea to reach out to an attorney with experience handling these types of cases as this can be a confusing area of law. Having someone that can guide you along the way is critical.