51. What are the special immigrant rules for battered immigrants?

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

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.1 

You may be eligible if you are no longer living with your abuser and you meet 1 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 for one of the above, even if you are not listed on the petition.
5-year waiting period

If you are a battered immigrant adult, unfortunately the 5-year waiting period for federal SNAP applies to you2. But this 5-year rule does not apply to your minor children or you if you receive a disability-based benefit3.

See waiting 5 years for SNAP if you are a disabled immigrant and eligibility for SNAP if you are a legal immigrant.

Start date of the 5-year waiting period

If you are a battered immigrant with a relative visa petition (Form I-130), the 5-year period starts the date the relative petition was filed (or the date that you entered the U.S. after it was filed). If you 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.

Verifying eligible status

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 pending4.

Each DTA office has designated Domestic Violence specialists as well as protocol for handling communication with individuals who self-identify as DV victims. They can also help with verification issues. See safety concerns and case information access.

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 immigrants5.

If you filed a self-petition under VAWA, it is possible your minor children may 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 and other immigration statuses, a concept known as “derived status.” Contact an immigration specialist if this issue comes up.

DTA Online Guide

See Appendix G for links to the DTA’s BEACON 5 Online Guide for this section.


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