Alice Vacek Aranda
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Can a battered spouse file for residency?

Many immigrants to the United States are unaware of a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act under the Violence Against Women Act which permits battered spouses, parents and children to file special visa petitions to remain in the country.

These immigrant visa petitions apply to those aforementioned individuals of American citizens and some children and spouses of permanent residents to file without their abuser's knowledge or permission. Filing enables them to find safety as well as independence.

Violence Against Women Act provisions cover both males and females who have been victimized. These are permanent and are not subject to reauthorization by Congress.

There are certain stipulations in place in order for abused residents to be eligible to file under VAWA. It can be complex and overwhelming, however, to someone who is in a foreign land and who may not speak, read or write the language fluently or at all. Add to that the trauma of the abuse and any accompanying physical and psychological injuries, and the application process may seem far too great a hurdle to overcome.

But no one, whether they are a United States citizen or an immigrant from another country, should have to live in fear of being beaten and subjected to violence and other forms of abuse. If you find yourself in this untenable position, know that you have resources available to you.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline operates a 24-hour crisis line 1-800-799-7233 for victims of abuse, no matter what their immigration status may be. That can be the first step that you take to get yourself out of immediate danger. Reaching out to an Arizona immigration attorney is another option for those interested in filing Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.

Source: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Battered Spouse, Children & Parents," accessed June 30, 2016

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