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Are immigrant victims of domestic violence protected?

If you have moved to California from another country to join your spouse who is a U.S. citizen, the most difficult challenge you face may be overcoming language or culture barriers. However, if your spouse is abusive, your opportunity may become a nightmare. In the United States, victims of domestic violence has access to protections, though, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services explains that these are available to anyone, regardless of immigration status.

You do not have to remain married to someone who harms you or your children. U.S. law states that you have the right to divorce your spouse without his or her consent. If you are afraid your spouse will retaliate, you may apply for and receive a protective order, regardless of your immigrant status. After separating from your spouse, you may be able to receive custody of your children, and you may also be entitled to financial support.

Even though your spouse sponsored your visa, your legal status may be protected in the event of a divorce because of domestic violence. There is a waiver that removes the need to file with your spouse to remove your conditional resident status. However, you must first be able to prove that your marriage was genuine and not a fraudulent attempt to gain permanent residence.

The Violence Against Women Act may allow you to continue the path toward permanent residency once you are eligible to file for status adjustment without your spouse. A U-nonimmigrant visa may also be an option for you. Which path is right for your circumstances depends on a number of factors, though, so although this information is provided for your education, it should not be interpreted as legal advice. 

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