Filing a report and bringing charges against an abuser is often times one of the most difficult things a person does. In many cases, victims of abuse go years without seeking help in fear of further abuse, or worse, retaliation. For immigrant victims of abuse, their fear may not be further violence but deportation that stops them from getting out and asking for help.
When a U.S. citizen or green card holder seeks to have their spouse granted citizenship, they may do so by filing an immigrant visa petition on their behalf. However, some abusive spouses purposely withhold this privilege in order to control their spouse or children. The fear of losing their right to citizenship keeps many immigrants in these abusive relationships. Unfortunately, what many immigrant abuse victims don't know is that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), offers protection to them as well.
Protection offered by the VAWA reaches far and wide to include immigrant spouses and their children. Through this act, battered spouses may self petition for citizenship of themselves and their children if they have been the victim of domestic abuse. Although there are several requirements for battered immigrants to gain citizenship through self petition, they must be willing to seek prosecution of their abuser.
For immigrant spouses that are the victims of domestic abuse, there is help out there. The necessary steps to self petition for citizenship are complex and may be difficult to understand. However, an experienced immigration attorney can help explain your rights and file your petition. They may be able to inform you of other protections available to you and your children.