Q. I am an Indian citizen and entered America on a student visa (F-1). About 9 months ago, I got married to a green card holder. My husband is physically and mentally abusive. I am afraid to leave him as I am no longer pursuing my studies and am relying on him to apply for my green card. What can I do?
A. It appears that you are a victim of domestic violence. Regardless of immigration or citizenship status, all people in the United States are guaranteed basic protections. Laws provide:
The right to obtain a protection order.
The right to separation or divorce without the consent of spouse.
The right to share certain marital property.
The right to ask for custody of child(ren) and financial support. Parents of children under the age of 21 often are required to pay child support.
A victim of domestic violence is granted immigration benefits; you can continue to reside and work here.
You can file under:
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 was enacted to allow immigrant victims to file a self-petition to become lawful permanent residents (LPR) without having to rely on their abusers. Through the Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act of 2000, two other visas were created: for immigrant victims of violent crime (U visas) and victims of sexual assault or trafficking (T visas). In 2005, the protections were expanded to include victims of elder abuse. In 2013, Congress also extended the law’s protections to same sex partners who are victims.
The “U” Visa. The U Visa provides temporary immigration benefits for certain victims of qualifying criminal activity. Qualifying criminal activity includes one or more of the following: abduction, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, felonious assault, female genital mutilation, involuntary servitude, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, stalking, torture, and trafficking.
The “T” Visa. The T Visa is also a relief from deportation for foreign nationals who are victims of “severe trafficking” defined as (1) sex trafficking or (2) obtaining of a person for labor, through use of force.
To be eligible, (i) you must be physically present in the United States; (ii) assist in the investigation or prosecution of such trafficking. A VAWA, T or U visa beneficiary is eligible for employment authorization and may further be eligible to adjust status to that of a Lawful Permanent Resident, upon meeting certain criteria and requirements. Other non-immigration benefits include housing assistance, food stamps, and job training.
Q. I am currently on a H-4 visa and stuck in an abusive relationship. My spouse refuses to give me an allowance. Can I legally work here?
A. If you were admitted to the United States as the spouse of an H nonimmigrant who has abused you, you may be eligible for employment authorization. Employment authorization enables victims to seek safety and independence from their abuser, who is not notified about the filing. The employment authorization provisions apply equally to men and women. Initial employment authorizations will be issued for two years and may be renewed in certain circumstances.
If you are in the United States, you can file Form I-765V, in accordance with the form’s instructions. Please check out https://www.uscis.gov/forms/employment-authorization-certain-abused-nonimmigrant-spouses.
Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi has an office in San Jose. (408) 453-5335.