Practice Areas: Domestic Violence - Family Abuse Issues
Domestic violence, including abuse of a spouse, children and parents, takes place among all nationalities and ethnic groups and within all socio-economic classes. In the past, a foreign national who was being abused by a United States citizen family member, or lawful permanent resident family member, was subject to even greater control by the abuser because the abuser held the sole power to start the family immigration process -- and continue the immigration process if already started. Many foreign nationals who were being abused were reluctant to report the abuse to the authorities because they were afraid their abuser would refuse to file an immigration petition on their behalf, or would withdraw any pending immigration petition. The U.S. Congress recognized the particular vulnerability of immigrant victims of family violence and passed the first Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994.
Under VAWA and subsequent related legislation passed by Congress, certain abused spouses and children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents can "self-petition" for permanent residency (green card). "Self-petitioning" means the abused foreign national can file a petition directly with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), without having to depend on the abuser to take that step. An abused parent of a United States citizen may also be eligible to "self-petition."