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Marilyn Orbach-Rosenberg
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Domestic Violence Immigration Lawyer in New York City and Queens

Orbach Rosenberg Law helps victims of domestic violence break free from an abusive relationship by seeking protection under U.S. immigration law, namely the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA allows an immigrant spouse, child or parent who has been abused to self-petition for lawful permanent residence without the knowledge of the abusive spouse, parent or child.

VAWA was enacted to provide a way out of an abusive relationship for battered women who have been subjected to sexual abuse, physical abuse, or emotional or psychological abuse, and whose legal immigration status depended on maintaining their relationship with their abusive spouse. VAWA has been steadily expanded with each reauthorization and now provides protection to male and female spouses, children and parents who have been abused by a family member. Undocumented immigrants may find protection under VAWA as well.

How do I obtain Lawful Permanent Residence under VAWA?

The proper vehicle for VAWA protection is to file an I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant with the Vermont Service Center. There is a great deal of supporting documentation that must be submitted along with your petition in order for your application to be approved. Be prepared to provide details of the incident or incidents of abuse (battery or extreme cruelty), backed up by medical records or documentation showing bruises or other signs of abuse. You must also prove that the abuser is either a U.S. citizen or green card holder, or that the abuser lost or renounced citizenship or resident status within the last two years due to an incident of domestic violence. You must prove your own identity and be able to demonstrate your own good moral character, such as with a police clearance record (children under 14 years old are presumed to be of good moral character).

You must also provide evidence of your relationship to that abuser, that you lived with the abuser for a significant amount of time, and that you currently live in the U.S. As a spouse, you must prove that you are currently married or that you were married within the last two years but the marriage was terminated by death or divorce related to the abuse. If the marriage was invalid because the abusive spouse was married to another (bigamy), you can still file an I-360 if you believed you were legally married. You must also be able to demonstrate that the marriage was entered into in good faith and not for the purposes of obtaining immigration benefits. You can apply for resident status due to abuse of yourself or of your child by your spouse.

Once you have filed a proper I-360, you should receive a Prima Facie Determination Notice. This notice is valid for 150 days and should allow you to receive certain government benefits available to victims of domestic violence. Once your I-360 is approved, you may file form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization to receive official authorization to work in the U.S. You may also be eligible to file for a green card and lawful permanent residence.

Will my children be protected?

If you are an abused spouse, you can include your unmarried children under 21 on your petition. An unmarried child under 21 who has been abused by a parent may self-petition for residency, or you may petition for them. A child who has been abused by both parents may self-petition without either parent’s knowledge. If the child was prevented from filing before he or she turned 21, the child may still file until his or her 25th birthday.

Can undocumented immigrants get protection from domestic violence?

It is not surprising that undocumented immigrants who are victims of abuse may be afraid to seek help for fear of being deported. Abusers may know this and use this fear to further threaten and control their victims.

If your Form I-360 is approved and you do not have legal immigration status in the United States, the government may place you in deferred action, which will allow you to remain in the U.S. You can then also apply for work authorization by filing an I-765 with the Vermont Service Center. If your children were included on your I-360, they may apply for work authorization as well.

What if I do not qualify under VAWA?

VAWA protection is available to the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or green card holder, or the parent of a citizen. Even if you do not qualify for residency under VAWA, you may still be eligible to obtain legal status to remain in the U.S. with a U-visa, which is available to crime victims, including victims of domestic violence. Your immigration attorney can advise you on your options and assist you with the best choice in your particular situation.

What if I am not currently in the U.S.?

If you are living abroad at the time you self-petition, you may still file an I-360 if the abuser is a U.S. government employee or member of the uniformed services, or if you were subjected to battery or extreme cruelty when you were in the United States.

Don’t Delay. Get to a Safe Place and Seek Help Immediately to End an Abusive Relationship

If you are in an abusive relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to find information about shelters in your area and other types of assistance that may be available. For advice and assistance in the self-petition process to break out of that abusive relationship and obtain security for yourself and your children through lawful permanent residence, contact Orbach Rosenberg Law to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer. Your New York immigration attorney speaks Spanish, Polish, Russian and Hebrew, and assistance in other languages can be made available as well as necessary.

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