Domestic violence

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Unfortunately from time to time we learn of people in abusive relationships and their main worry is about their immigration status. The stereotype is for this to be all about women but men find themselves in this situation too. There are things that can be done, not all is lost. Don't panic.

Signs and Symptoms

Things to watch out for that may indicate you are in an abusive relationship:

  • not allowed bank accounts
  • immigration paperwork not filed/withheld
  • threats to "tell USCIS"
  • physical and emotional threats/actual violence

Things to do

  • find any immigration paperwork in your possession and make copies, store with a trusted friend or work colleague, bank lock box
  • find ID, passports, driving license, Greencard
  • find money
  • get out, stay with a trusted friend, work colleague or women's refuge or shelter
  • document/gather evidence of abuse

Who can help

  • British Consulate
  • Catholic charities (you don't have to be Catholic)
  • International Institute

Addresses, websites, phone numbers

Immigration next steps

  • VAWA
  • waivers
  • DOJ list of free legal services
  • You may need two lawyers, one family law and the other for immigration law.
  • Occasionally there are specialists in domestic abuse immigration law, e.g. Hema Law.

VAWA Filing

A self petitioner's declaration is also an affidavit. Explain in your own words to describe the history and nature of your relationship and residence with the abuser, history and nature of the abuse, and the ways to show good moral character. If you need to write your own, a good declaration contains the following:

Section on relationship to the abuser

  • How, when, and where the applicant met the spouse.
  • Describe the courtship before they married.
  • Details about the marriage proposal and wedding day.
  • If children, when were they born?

Section on residence with the abuser

  • When they moved in together.
  • Places where they lived together.
  • How long they lived in each place together.

Section on domestic violence

  • HOW and WHEN spouse began abusive behavior;
  • How long into marriage did spouse's behavior change?
  • Was behavior change sudden or gradual?
  • Focus on FIRST, WORST, and LAST incidents;
  • Include both PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL abuse.
  • Was substance abuse involved?
  • What led up to the incidents?
  • Did applicant call the police? If not, why not?
  • If police were called, was abuser arrested? If not, why not?
  • Did the applicant go to a doctor or hospital?
  • Did applicant get a restraining order? If so, when?
  • Did anyone witness the violence?
  • Describe any sexual abuse.
  • Describe any verbal abuse, including insults.
  • Describe any abuse based on economic power.
  • Describe any effect on children.
  • Describe any threats by the abuser to turn the applicant into the USCIS or have them deported.

Section on good moral character

  • Lack of problems with the law.
  • Position in, contributions to community.
  • Role in the positive development of the children.
  • More extensive explanation of good moral character if needed to counterbalance any problems showing good moral character