When we seek a family-based Green Card as a noncitizen, we need a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to petition for us. Our petitioner might be our spouse, parent or adult child. Generally, family Green Cards are sought out of love.
Sadly, not all family relationships are healthy. Domestic violence or cruelty can occur between spouses, parents and children.
Some citizen family members might hold that petition we need to get a Green Card over our head as a means of intimidating us or forcing us to do something we do not want to do.
The threat to withdraw the petition if we do not comply with our loved one’s demands can be seen as abusive behavior that should be stopped. If we find ourselves in such a situation, can we leave the abusive relationship while still entering or remaining in the United States?
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) gives those of us who are trapped in an abusive relationship with our spouse, parent or adult child a means to self-petition for a Green Card. This way, we do not need the approval of our abuser to enter or remain in the country. In fact, we can go through the self-petition process in secret, which could keep us safe.
To pursue a Green Card as a self-petitioner, we must have a qualifying relationship with our petitioner. In addition, our petitioner must have subjected us to battery or extreme cruelty while we are in the United States. We also must be living or had been living with our petitioner at the time of the abuse. Finally, we need to be of good moral character.
If our petition is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), we can pursue Green Card. If we are not yet living in the U.S., this is carried out by consular processing. If we are already living in the U.S., this is accomplished through an adjustment of status.
No one should feel compelled to stay in an abusive familial or romantic relationship. We have the right to pursue a Green Card without being threatened or subjected to unwanted behavior by an abusive spouse, parent or adult child. A self-petition can be a form of protection against domestic violence.