Did you know that it is possible to seek out protections for yourself as well as your family members if you are an immigrant living in the United States who is a victim of domestic violence? Domestic violence is unfortunately common among immigrants due to many being unable to speak English and the fact that they are separated from friends and family. They may not fully understand the laws in the United States and have a misunderstanding that reporting abuse or seeking help could disqualify them from remaining in the country.
As an immigrant, it is important that you understand that domestic violence is against the law. It may include behaviors such as threatening you, emotionally manipulating you or isolating you from family, friends or your community. While some domestic violence involves physical abuse, not all does. Men or women may be victims of domestic violence.
Do victims of domestic violence have rights in the United States?
Victims, regardless of their immigration status or citizenship, have the right to seek an order of protection, to divorce or separate without their spouse’s consent and to ask for custody of their children along with all available financial support. Victims may also seek a share of their marital property.
If you are being victimized, you can call 911 for immediate help if you are in danger. You may also ask for a protection order.
What immigration options are there for victims of domestic violence?
- The cancellation of removal orders under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
- Self-petitioning for legal status using VAWA
- Seeking U-nonimmigrant status, which is reserved for victims of crimes
Each of these immigration options requires you to fill out special paperwork and establish specific requirements. This can be a complex situation to be in. Keep all of the documentation about any arrests or protective orders you’ve sought out. Then, remember that you can look more deeply into these legal options with someone who can help you understand if they are right for your situation. Good legal support can help you fight to stay in the United States and to be in a safer environment.