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Can you stay in the U.S. as a victim of domestic abuse?

If you came to the United States to be with your spouse, one of the most damaging things to experience would be domestic violence. You may feel that you have no way out of the situation or that you can't turn away from your spouse without having to go back to your country. This might not be an option for you, either, especially if your country isn't safe or if you have children who are U.S. citizens.

As the battered spouse of a U.S. citizen, you should know that you can petition for a green card to stay in the United States. This is available through the Immigration and Nationality Act, or INA, as well as the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA. You do not need permission from the alleged abuser to file for this green card, which helps you do so safely and privately.

Additionally, if you are a victim of abuse, you may also be able to receive a work permit, so you can get a job and support yourself away from your abuser.

Who is eligible to apply for a green card due to domestic violence?

If you are:

  • Married to an abuser who is a U.S. citizen
  • Divorced or the widow of an abuser who was a U.S. citizen (within the last two years prior to a domestic violence incident)
  • A child who has been subjected to abuse by a U.S. citizen abuser
  • The parent of an immigrant and once U.S. citizen who is no longer a citizen because of domestic violence

...or one of several other statuses, you may qualify for this green card. There are many different kinds of people who could qualify, so you may want to look over the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to see who applies and to look into applying there.

Can you seek help without the support of an attorney?

You can, but this is a difficult time in your life as it is. You will need to provide proof of the domestic violence that has taken place. Your application needs to be filled out correctly and in full.

You'll receive a notice of denial or approval. If you are denied the green card that you need, then it's worth having your attorney look over the application to see why you were denied and if that denial can be appealed. This can be a complex situation, but there is help available.

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