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


DTA made a number of changes and suspended a number of rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Guide notes in red when a rule was suspended during the pandemic.

Produced by Deborah Harris and Betsy Gwin, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2022

Noncitizens abused by a spouse, parent, or member of a spouse’s or parent’s family (and the children or parents of abused noncitizens) may be eligible for TAFDC even if they do not meet the other noncitizen rules in What if you are not a citizen? You may be eligible if you are no longer living with your abuser andyou 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 noncitizens who are married to or the children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents but are no longer living with them. Your petition qualifies as pending when you have a “Notice of Prima Facie Determination” that you appear to meet the criteria.
  • 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 noncitizen even if you are not listed on the petition. 106 C.M.R. § 703.430(A)(8) ; see DTA Online Guide (Battered Noncitizen-TAFDC); DTA Field Operations Memo 2005-22 (June 1, 2005); DTA Transitions, June 2007, p. 7.

Advocacy Reminders

  • Battered noncitizens who qualify under the above rules do not have to wait five years to get TAFDC.
  • 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 your local legal services program, Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices, if you need help.
  • You do not have to have a police report. You can verify the abuse with a statement from anyone who knew about the abuse.
  • 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 noncitizens.
  • There are a number of codes on immigration documents that may show that a noncitizen meets battered noncitizen criteria. Some of these are listed in DTA Field Operations Memo 2005-22 (June 1, 2005). For help, contact your local legal services program, Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices.
  • You may qualify as a battered noncitizen even if the abuser was not your spouse or parent if the abuser was related to them and your spouse or parent consented to or did not intervene to stop the abuse. 106 C.M.R. § 703.430(A)(8)(a).

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