The ‘Domestic Violence Green Card’: Immigrant Visa Petitions for Victims

If you’re the victim of domestic violence and you’re not a United States citizen or permanent resident, you may be eligible to file your own application for what is commonly called a “domestic violence green card.” Typically, green cards (permanent resident status documents) are obtained when a family member or an employer sponsors an immigrant’s application to reside in the United States on a permanent or long-term basis.

However, if you’re residing in the U.S. and suffering as a victim of domestic violence, you are able to self-petition for a green card under a provision of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). If you’re not currently residing in the U.S. but your abuser is an employee of the U.S. government or a member of the uniformed services, you can still file for your own green card if you were abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident while present in the United States. Finally, if you’re an illegal immigrant suffering domestic violence, you aren’t immediately eligible for the “domestic violence green card” but you can still receive protection from the government if you qualify for a special non-immigrant visa called a U visa.

The U visa doesn’t grant you automatic access to government benefits, but you’ll become eligible for consideration for benefits by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Department (USCIS). For more information on the U visa, visit the USCIS website or U.S. Immigration Support.

A federal immigration form that allows some immigrant domestic violence survivors on H4  visa to apply for independent Employment Authorization Document (EAD), is being applauded by Indian-American advocacy organizations. According to activists this is the final step to activate Section 814(c) of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2005 which was intended to address this problem. It was announced on the last day of the Obama administration Jan. 19, and the Trump administration let it stand on Feb. 14 after a review.

Section 814(c) amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to provide eligibility for employment authorization to certain abused spouses of non-immigrants admitted under 15 separate immigration categories. More than 10 years later, the final rule implementing this section has finally become effective, advocates say.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued Form I-765V, “Application for Employment Authorization for Abused Nonimmigrant Spouse,” Jan. 19. The document, which is available on the USCIS website (uscis.gov/i-765v), is confidential, thus preventing the abuser from learning of the application and helping an applicant gain security and independence.

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