Immigration Attorney – Permanent Residence for Victims of Abuse
U.S. law provides a path to permanent residency for undocumented immigrants who are the victims of abuse by a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or parent. The Violence Against Women Act, enacted in 1994, created this in response to the fact that U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents were sometimes using their power over their spouse’s and children’s immigration status to try to control them.
The Violence Against Women Act offers two ways to obtain permanent resident status based on abuse by a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident: VAWA self-petition and VAWA cancellation of removal. Consult with an immigration attorney to see if either of these options is right for you.
The first option, self-petition, is available to applicants who fall into one of three categories: immigrants abused by a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or former spouse; immigrants abused by a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident parent; or immigrants who are the parents of a child who was/is abused by the immigrant’s U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or former spouse.
A number of conditions must be met for an applicant to qualify for VAWA self-petition. The applicant must have a qualified relationship to the abuser; i.e., marriage or the parent-child relationship. The abuser must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident; if the abuser has lost immigration status in the past two years, the petitioner must demonstrate that the loss of status was related to an incident of domestic violence. The petitioner must have resided with the abusive spouse or parent, and there must be evidence of battery or extreme cruelty by the spouse or parent. And the petitioner must show good moral character; i.e., a clean criminal record going back three years. Self-petitioners can apply for work authorization, although they must demonstrate economic necessity. Consult with an immigration attorney for more details.
The second path, cancellation of removal, grants the petitioner immediate permanent resident status. To apply for cancellation of removal, the petitioner must first be placed in removal proceedings; the request is made to an immigration judge. The categories are slightly more expansive than those for self-petition; immigrants abused by an intended spouse can also qualify. Cancellation of removal also provides relief for a broader group of petitioners because it does not require that the petitioner have been married to the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident where the parent abused the petitioner’s child, or for abused children to establish that they resided with the abuser.
To obtain cancellation of removal, the petitioner must show continuous residence in the United States for the past three years, battery or extreme cruelty against them during such residence by the abusive spouse or parent, and good moral character (a clean criminal record). Petitioners must also show that they or their child will suffer extreme hardship if deported; extreme hardship is more than economic deprivation, loss of employment, or readjustment to life in the petitioners native country. The petitioner cannot currently hold a legal immigration status, and cannot be deportable due to marriage fraud, certain criminal convictions, or as a threat to U.S. national security.
To find out more about whether you might qualify for either VAWA path to legal residence, consult with an immigration attorney.
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