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What are the special non-citizen eligibility rules for battered immigrants and their families?

Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2017

Non-citizens abused by a spouse or parent (and the children or parents of abused non-citizens) may be eligible for TAFDC even if they do not meet the other non-citizen rules in What if you are not a citizen?. 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 lawful permanent resident and filed a petition (usually called a Form I-130) to get you legal status. The petition can be either approved or pending.
  • You have a pending or approved self-petition for legal status as a victim of domestic violence. This is called a VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) petition or form I-360. It is available to non-citizens who are married to or the children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents but are no longer living with them.
  • You have a pending or approved petition for suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal under VAWA.
  • You are the dependent child of someone who qualifies as a battered non-citizen even if you are not listed on the petition. 106 C.M.R. § 203.675(A)(8); see F.O. Memo 2005-22 (June 1, 2005 DTA Transitions, June 2007, p. 7.

Advocacy Reminders

  • Battered non-citizens who qualify under the above rules do not have to wait five years to get TAFDC.
  • You do not have to have to give DTA a police report or court order to verify the abuse. 
  • DTA will ask you for proof of your immigration status and copies of any petitions. Tell your DTA worker if you cannot get the documents you need because the abuser has them. Contact an advocate if you need help.
  • A VAWA petition qualifies as pending when you have received a notice of “prima facie” determination that you appear to meet the VAWA criteria. 
  • If you filed a self-petition under VAWA, it is likely your children will not be listed on notices from the Department of Homeland Security, but your children have the same protections under the special rules for battered non-citizens.
  • There are a number of codes on immigration documents that may show that a non-citizen meets battered non-citizen criteria. Some of these are listed in F.O. Memo 2005-22 (June 1, 2005). For additional information, consult an immigration law specialist.
  • You may qualify as a battered non-citizen even if the abuser was not your spouse or parent if your spouse or parent consented to or did not intervene to stop the abuse. 106 C.M.R. § 203.675(A)(8)(a).

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