You’re waiting to hear back on the status of your immigration application, but every day is a nightmare. Not because the process is taking so long, but because your spouse’s temper is getting worse and worse. You’re far away from home, and he’s the only person you know or can even speak to. You may have been threatened when you tried to leave—even told that you would be deported if you tried to divorce your abusive spouse.

How Separation Due to Domestic Abuse Affects Your Immigration Status

The first thing you should know is that you cannot be deported for leaving your abusive husband. According to the protections of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), you do not need to stay with an abuser to retain your green card, visa, or residency. Here are a few more ways abuse and immigration laws affect you and your family:

  • If you are a conditional resident – Women with conditional visas seeking divorce or separation should not lose their visas if they have been battered, violated, or subjected to extreme cruelty. If your spouse refuses to assist you in removing your conditional status, you can apply for a waiver or ask for an attorney’s help.
  • If you and your abuser divorce – You can file a self-petition for citizenship (without your husband) within two years of your divorce.
  • If your spouse is deported – If your spouse loses legal permanent residence status, you can file a petition on your own behalf up to two years after he has been deported.
  • If you are in deportation proceedings – If you have lost your legal residence and have suffered abuse, you and your children could still get lawful immigration status under the VAWA. If you are unmarried or your abuser is also not a legal resident, you may stay in the U.S. under a U-Visa. However, a U-Visa requires that you are willing to prosecute your abuser with the help of the authorities.

It is important that you seek out the advice of an attorney before you attempt to handle your own citizenship case. Once you have safely left the control of your abuser, an attorney can help you file divorce papers, get a protection order, and get legal status for you and your children. To get started, fill out the online contact form on this page so we can contact you privately.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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