A U.S. citizen or an LPR typically files an immigrant visa petition with the USCIS on behalf of his or her spouse so that the spouse can become an LPR. Unfortunately, some U.S. citizens and LPRs take advantage of their control of this process to threaten or abuse their spouse by various means. Because of their weak position, most abused spouses are afraid to report the threats or abuse to the police or other authorities.
However, an abused spouse may self-petition to obtain LPR status. In order to seek safety and independence from the abuser, the immigration laws allow an abused spouse to file for immigration relief without the abuser’s assistance or knowledge. An applicant’s children, who are under 21 years of age and unmarried, including those who were not directly abused, may be included on the applicant’s petition as derivative beneficiaries.
To be eligible to file the self-petition, the applicant, man or woman, must:
Be legally married to a U.S. citizen or LPR abuser. A self-petition may be filed if the marriage was terminated (by divorce or the abusive spouse’s death) within the two years prior to filing. A self-petition may also be filed if the marriage was not legitimate because of the bigamy of the abusive spouse;
Must have been battered in the United States unless the abusive spouse is an employee of the U.S. Government or a member of the U.S. military;
Be considered a person of good moral character.
Have entered into the marriage in good faith, that is, not solely for the purpose of becoming an LPR, and
Have resided with the abusive spouse.
If and when the self-petition is approved, the abused spouse may immediately apply for LPR status. There is no annual limitation on the number of people who may obtain LPR status through the filing of an abused-spouse self-petition.