U.S. Law Center

Does spousal abuse threaten your immigration status?

One of the easiest ways to become a permanent resident may be through your spouse if he is a U.S. citizen. However, if your life in California has become miserable because of domestic violence, the cost of becoming a citizen may be too high. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you may be eligible to receive protection without losing your status.

There are a number of requirements you must meet to qualify to file for immigration status through the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act amendment of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This law protects you and your child, and you may both file if either of you has been subject to extreme cruelty or battery.

You must show that your marriage was not a way to take advantage of immigration benefits, but that you married your spouse in good faith. You will also need to show that you lived with your spouse. Even if you are not currently married, you may file if the marriage ended because you divorced on grounds of abuse, or your spouse died during the two years before you filed. You may also file if you thought you were married, but your abusive spouse had another wife, making your legal relationship illegitimate.

Because good moral character is a factor in gaining and maintaining permanent residency, your spouse could lose his status due to domestic violence. If this happened within the two years before you file, you are still eligible. This information is provided for educational purposes, but it is general in nature, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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