Sometimes spouses refuse to sponsor their immigrant spouse for a green card. This creates complications for the immigrant spouse, who often is unable to legally work and who is often in the country illegally.
Fortunately, there is a pathway forward for certain immigrant spouses who have been abused by their U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident spouse. It’s often referred to as the Violence Against Women Act–VAWA–although it can also apply to children and men.
The rules are complex; however, generally speaking, VAWA applies to parents, children, and spouses of U.S citizens (and usually U.S. green card holders) who have been abusive. This abuse is includes physical abuse (battery) but it can also include other forms of abuse if that abuse is serious enough.
What if the abuser has divorced you, is dead, or has lost their U.S. citizenship or green card? As long as you apply within 2 years of that incident, in most cases you’ll qualify.
This pathway allows you to get permission to work and stay in the U.S. without even notifying your abusive relative of the fact. They don’t need to know about the application. You’ll be doing this without them signing on to it. More than that, this process can lead to a green card and, eventually, U.S. citizenship. It’s an important step towards independence.
If you believe you might qualify, it’s important that you meet with an immigration attorney to discuss your options. This may be time sensitive, and so it’s important not to put it off.