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What are the special immigrant rules for battered immigrants?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2020

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.
■ 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.
■ You have an approved or pending application for “cancellation of removal” or suspension of deportation filed 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 immigrant children who are LPRs, have humanitarian parole status or are dependents of battered immigrants. 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. Go to Masslegalservices.org/DTAContacts for a list of DV Specialists.
  • Battered immigrants who suffer from physical or emotional abuse and qualify for a disability-based benefit (such as EAEDC) are not subject to the 5-year wait.
  • Some battered immigrants may have fled their abuser without documents. If so, DTA should accept a self-declaration from the battered immigrants as proof of filing for legal status while working with the immigrant to verify status. DTA should issue SNAP for up to 6 months if they or the immigrant have asked USCIS for verification of legal status and the request is pending. 106 CMR §362.220(C).
  • 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. Most immigrant children have legal protections under the special rules for battered immigrants based on “derived status.” See an immigration specialist if questions or concerns.

DTA Online Guide Sections:SNAP > Eligibility Requirements > Noncitizen > Battered Noncitizen and Home > Domestic Violence > Domestic Violence Specialists

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)
● Immigrants are not required to self-petition under VAWA to be battered immigrant for benefits. Transitions Hotline Q&A (June 2007)

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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