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Abuse-Based Green Cards

Lawful Permanent Residence for Abused Immigrants

Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), amended by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2001, abused immigrants now have practical, legal means of obtaining lawful immigrant status or a green card without their abuser’s consent and without their abusive spouse’s knowledge.

Green Cards for Married & Recently Divorced Abuse Survivors

Abused spouses or those immigrants who divorced their abuser in the past two years, can petition for an immigrant visa and file for an adjustment of status to permanent residency if the survivor can show:

  1. s/he has suffered extreme cruelty from her U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse  (LPR);
  2. S/he entered into a valid, bona fide marriage with a U.S. citizen or LPR (i.e., for non-immigration related purposes); and
  3. Is a person of strong moral character (no criminal background is the best way to show this).
The previous 4th factor, a showing that the battered spouse will suffer extreme hardship if forced to return to his/her home country, is no longer required, although it is still applicable to a showing of extreme cruelty and is, in our opinion, essential to make a strong case of abuse.

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Unlawful Presence

Perhaps the most favorable aspect of the Violence Against Women Act is that the visas may be granted to those who have been unlawfully present in the U.S.

Abused spouses are exempt from the 3 and 10 year bars for unlawful presence if they first arrived in the U.S. before April 1996 and have not departed the U.S. since. Regardless, it is always wise to consult an attorney specializing in VAWA before leaving for a trip abroad as some consulates are more likely to recognize this tenet of the law than others.  There is a waiver available to approved self-petitioners/abuse survivors who arrived after that date although this takes special guidance from an attorney in order to obtain.
The Vermont Service Center of INS (CIS) currently accepts immigrant visa petitions of abused spouses of U.S. citizens & lawful permanent residents.  The showing of extreme cruelty, good moral character, and bona fide marriage can be very difficult to prove due to evidentiary problems, proving abuse that is intangible or hard to prove, incomplete psychological evaluations, and complicated legal immigration repercussions based on the alien’s current immigration status or past immigration history.

Deportation Relief

VAWA also created waivers for criminal conduct and other bars to admissibility (bars making an approved VAWA applicant otherwise ineligible for a green card) and grounds for deportation.  It also extended motion to reopen relief for closed final deportation hearings and final deport orders, with certain exceptions, for battered immigrants.


Employment Authorization

Self-petitioning abused spouses with existing Adjustment of Status cases (green card cases based on a marriage, abuse received in marraige, or by an employer sponsor) may petition for work authorization. Abused spouses married to LPRS with approved self-petitions who are not yet eligible to file for Adjustment of Status to permanent residency may file for work authorization based on the grant of deferred action that accompanies abused spouse immigrant visa approvals.

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When Experience and Ethical Reputation Matters.
99% Approval on all Abused Spouse Immigrant Visa/Green Card Cases*
100% Approval on all Conditional Green Card Waivers based on Abuse* (for abused immigrants with temporary 2-yr green cards who wish to file to take the condition off of their green card without their spouse’s knowledge, consent or help)
 As June 2019. Approval rate does not guarantee success on your particular matter. Whether or not your case is likely to be successful depends on the facts, the law, and available evidence. No attorney can legally guarantee an outcome. For more information on whether the Attorney believes your case will be a success, contact us for a Case Evaluation appointment with Attorney Heather.

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