Recently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published Form I-765V, Application for Employment Authorization for Abused Nonimmigrant Spouse. Form I-765V allows spouses of certain nonimmigrant visa holders to apply for employment authorization independently so that they are not forced to remain in the abusive relationship. The application is confidential so the abuser is not notified, allowing the applicant to seek safety and independence.
Section 814(c) of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2005 amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to provide eligibility for employment authorization to certain abused spouses of non-immigrants admitted under the A-1, A-2, A-3 (foreign government diplomats, officials, and their family members and personal staff), E-3 (Australian specialty workers), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, G-5 (employees of foreign governments and organizations, family members, and personal staff), and H1-B, H1-B1, H2-A, H2-B, H-3, and H-4 (specialty occupation and free trade agreement workers) categories. These spouses are not otherwise entitled to employment authorization, forcing many to remain in abusive relationships for lack of any means to support themselves. After over ten years, the final rule implementing this section finally became effective, and the application form was published on January 19, 2017.
Applicants must provide evidence of their lawful entry and status, their marriage to the abuser (or, if divorced, that the divorce took place within the last two years and was connected to the abuse), the abuser’s status (or, identifying information that will allow USCIS to confirm the status), and that the applicant has been battered or subjected to extreme mental cruelty. If approved, employment authorization will be granted for two years and can be renewed under certain circumstances.
Although the approval of employment authorization does not change the immigration status of the applicant, the ability to work offers hope to dependent spouses who were otherwise stuck in abusive situations because they could not afford to leave. We applaud this expansion and encourage Congress and the Administration to continue to expand protection under VAWA to non-immigrants as well as immigrants.
If you think you would benefit from this or other provisions of VAWA, which offers some protection to foreign nationals from physically or mentally abusive relationships, please contact one of our attorneys today.