Imagine coming to the United States and meeting your “soulmate.” With plans to spend the rest of your lives together, you and she marry and together, you file papers with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services so that you can receive a green card and live in wedded bliss with your new spouse in the U.S. But then something goes seriously wrong. Your wife changes, becoming emotionally, verbally, or even physically abusive towards you. This type of abuse can manifest in any number of ways. While each abusive scenario is different, examples of abusive behavior may include the following: Your wife starts to become demanding. She reads all your emails. She won’t let you communicate with your family back home. She dictates whom and whom you cannot see. She demands that you provide her with large sums of money so that she can buy whatever she wants. She ridicules you in public and private and what’s worse, she threatens to withdraw her immigration papers and see to it that you are deported. What went wrong? And what can you do to protect yourself?
While she may not have physically harmed you, your wife’s actions may fit the classic definition of extreme mental cruelty, and under the immigration laws, you may be eligible to apply for a Battered Spouse Self-Petition, which may provide you with a path to a green card. Before the enactment of the Violence Against Women’s Act (“VAWA”) (misleading in its name as it applies to battered men as well as battered women), abused spouses could not petition for themselves. However, under VAWA, an abused spouse may apply for immigration relief through a VAWA self-petition if he can show:
• He was married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
• He married his spouse in good faith;
• During the marriage, he was battered by or subject to extreme mental cruelty committed by his spouse;
• He resided with his spouse in the U.S. for at least some period of time during the marriage;
• He either currently resides in the U.S., or, if living abroad, was subjected to battery or extreme mental cruelty in the U.S. at the hands of his spouse; and
• He is a person of good moral character.
Please note that if you are now divorced, you must file your VAWA self-petition within two years of the divorce in order to be eligible.
If you believe you may be the victim of abuse and may qualify under VAWA, you should contact an immigration attorney who can evaluate your case and assist you in applying for any immigration benefits for which you may be eligible. IMMIGRATION ATTORNEYS, LLP is experienced in preparing and filing successful battered spouse petitions – for both abused wives and abused husbands. We welcome your inquiries.