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What are the special immigrant rules for battered immigrants?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

Immigrants abused by a spouse or parent (and the children or parents of abused immigrants) may be eligible for benefits even if their immigration status is pending. 106 C.M.R. § 362.220(B)(8).

You may be eligible if you are no longer living with your abuser and you meet one of the following:

  • Your spouse or parent is a U.S. citizen or LPR and filed a relative petition (usually called a USCIS Form I-130) to get you LPR status. The petition can be approved or still pending with immigration officials.
  • You have a pending or approved self-petition for legal status as a victim of domestic violence. This is called a VAWA petition (“Violence Against Women Act”) or USCIS Form I-360. It is available to immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents but are no longer living with them. 
  • You have an approved or pending application for cancellation of removal or suspension of deportation filed as a victim of domestic violence.
  • You now have LPR status and you got your status though a petition filed by your spouse or parent or because you self-petitioned as a victim of domestic violence.
  • You are the dependent child of a battered immigrant who has filed or been approved for one of the above, even if you are not listed on the petition.

Five-year waiting period for battered immigrant adults

If you are a battered immigrant adult, there is unfortunately the same 5-year waiting period that applies to LPRs and humanitarian parolees. 106 C.M.R.§ 362.220(B)(8). But this 5-year rule does not apply to your minor children or if you are disabled (receive a disability-based benefit). 106 C.M.R. § 362.220(B)(8)(e)

If you are a battered immigrant with a relative visa petition (Form I-130), the 5-year period starts the date the petition was filed (or the date that you entered the U.S. after it was filed if later). If you are a battered immigrant who self-petitioned under VAWA, the start date for the 5-year period is the date that a “prima facie” determination was made by immigration officials for the VAWA petition (Form I-360) and not the date the final VAWA status was granted. 

Children of battered immigrants

There is no 5-year waiting period for children who are LPRs or have humanitarian parole status. There is also no 5-year wait for children of immigrant children who meet the battered immigrant rules, or who are U.S. citizens. If you have children with LPR or other qualifying status, they should qualify for SNAP. 106 C.M.R. § 362.220(B)(8)(e)(3).

Advocacy Reminders:

  • Each DTA office has designated Domestic Violence specialists as well as protocol for handling communication with individuals who self-identify as DV victims.  You can request to speak with a DV Specialist on the DTA Assistance Line during DTA business hours.
  • It is important to screen for the disability exemption. Many battered immigrants may be suffering from physical or emotional abuse as a result of the battering. If so, and immigrant qualifies for a disability-based benefit such as EAEDC, the 5-year wait should not apply.
  • DTA will ask you for proof of immigration status and copies of your petition for legal status. Some battered immigrants may have fled their abuser without documents. DTA should accept a self-declaration from battered immigrants as proof of their filing for legal status if SAVE while working with him or her to verify status.
  • If you filed a self-petition under VAWA, it is possible your minor children will not be listed on the notices from the Department of Homeland Security. However, most immigrant children have legal protections under the special rules for battered immigrants based on “derived status.” See an immigration specialist if you have questions or concerns.  

DTA Policy Guidance:

Online Guide Sections:  SNAP > Eligibility Requirements > Noncitizen > Battered Noncitizen

Additional Guidance
  • Extensive DTA guidance on the eligibility of battered immigrants, including scope INS coding, acceptable documents, eligibility of other household members, verification if documents missing, etc. F.O. Memo 2005-22 (June 1, 2005)
  • DTA protocol for handling domestic violence situations and referrals to DV specialists. Transitions, Sept 2015, Policy Mailbox, pg 4.
  • Immigrants are not required to self-petition under VAWA to be battered immigrant for benefits. Transitions Hotline Q&A (June 2007)
  • Battered woman in DV shelter can get own SNAP benefits even if still on SNAP grant of abuser. Transitions FYI (May 2012).

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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