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Legal Status for Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence

If you are being abused by your U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident ("green card") Spouse or Parent, or Child (over 21)
Or your child is being abused by his or her U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident ("green card") Parent
And you are undocumented or without legal immigration status, there are immigration laws which can help you escape violence and get legal immigration status. If these immigration laws apply to you, you can get legal status without help from your battering spouse or parent.

  1. What do I have to show to petition for myself?
  2. What if I am in deportation or removal proceedings?
  3. What if my battering spouse is not a U.S. citizen, or if I was never married to my batterer?
  4. What if I have a conditional or temporary green card?
  5. What kind of evidence will I need?
  6. What not to do
  7. What to do
  8. If you are in need of support, resources, and a safe place for yourself and your children
  9. If you are a battered immigrant woman or child who does not have a green card or who has a conditional or temporary green card

What do I have to show to petition for myself?

To self-petition successfully for legal status under the immigration laws for battered spouses, children, or parents, you have to show all of the following:

  1. You have been battered or suffered severe emotional abuse by your U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse parent, child; or that your child suffered battering or abuse by his or her U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident parent;
  2. You married your spouse in good faith, not to get immigration papers;
  3. You lived with your spouse in the U.S. (You do not need to be living with your spouse when you file your papers; and you may file even if you are divorced, if you file within two years of the divorce. and
  4. You are a person of "good moral character".

(Examples of "good moral character" are listed in the Evidence section of this brochure.).

What if I am in deportation or removal proceedings?

You can self-petition or apply for "cancellation of removal." You can be granted cancellation of removal even if you are divorced from your battering spouse when you apply. To qualify for cancellation of removal, you have to show:

  1. You must show the same things you need to show for the self-petition, and
  2. That you have been in the United States for at least three continuous years.

What if my battering spouse is not a U.S. citizen, or if I was never married to my batterer?

There may be other ways for you to get legal status. You should call a legal services office or an attorney and ask about the U Visa. The U Visa is for the victim of a crime who has been helpful, is being helpful, or will be helpful in the prosecution of a crime.

What if I have a conditional or temporary green card?

You must file a waiver of the joint petition. Call to discuss your situation.

What kind of evidence will I need?

Collecting the evidence you will need can be complicated, but you should try to get as much as possible of the following:

  • Your marriage certificate.
  • Evidence that you and the batterer lived together as a married couple, such as birth certificates of children, bills, leases, family photos, tax returns, etc.
  • Proof of the abuse such as restraining or civil protection orders, police reports, medical records, criminal records of the batterer, a letter from a battered women's program, counselling records, photographs of injuries or bruises, affidavits of the witnesses describing the abuse.
  • Evidence of "good moral character" such as proof that you have no criminal record, a letter from your religious institution, or evidence of community involvement.
  • You must provide a written affidavit describing the history of your relationship with the batterer.
  • What not to do

    You should not go to the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS - formerly the INS) alone, even to ask for information. If you receive a notice to go to CIS for an interview or a hearing, speak to an advocate or attorney immediately.

    You should not, under any circumstances, file any papers at the CIS without first discussing your case with an advocate or attorney.

    You should not get divorced until you have spoken to an immigration attorney. If you or your spouse have already started divorce proceedings, call immediately.

    You should not keep your documents where your batterer may find them.

    What to do

    You should get help from a battered women's program or legal services. They can help you figure out your options.

    You should find any and all documents that will support your case.


    If you are in need of support, resources, and a safe place for yourself and your children:

    Call SafeLink a 24-hour Hotline at 1-877-785-2020.

    (Safelink is a project of Boston's Casa Myrna Vasquez, Inc)


    If you are a battered immigrant woman or child who does not have a green card or who has a conditional or temporary green card:

    Call the Battered Immigrant Women's Project at:

    Community Legal Services And Counseling Center (CLSACC)

    One West Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
    (617) 661-1010

    Greater Boston Legal Services
    (617) 371-1234

    Produced by Community Legal Services & Counseling Center
    Last Updated January, 2007

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