An interesting crossroads between Family Law and Immigration Law is the I-360 -- Petition for Special Immigrant Visa. While this form can be used for a couple of purposes, by and away the largest utilization is for VAWA purposes -- Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Fortunately, this Act applies to both men and women, so do not be confused by the gender in the title. The I-360, in the Family Law context allows an abused immigrant to self-apply for a green card (LPR status) if the marriage that brought him/her to the US was broken due to violence, abuse, or fraud by the his/her partner.
Under normal I-130/I-485 procedures, in order to apply for a green card (LPR status), once married, the sponsoring spouse (citizen or LPR) must submit supporting forms to show that the immigrant is lawfully married, and that the marriage is not a sham. This involves, among other things, the requirement that the sponsoring spouse attend the LPR interview for the immigrant.
In the 1980's there came about an explosion in mail order brides -- and with this, the attendant exploitation of foreigners coming to the US for the first time to meet their "mates." Women would all too often be trapped in a relationship, unable to obtain legal status (and often with her passport taken), and therefore unable to leave. Report of rampant abuse, prostitution, and horrid conditions led to the passage of the VAWA (those section regarding immigration)in the early 1990's.
Key aspects of VAWA -- you must show abuse (mental or physical); it must be documented. The marriage must be concluded (i.e. divorce must be underway), and the original marriage must be valid (the person petitioning for the I-360 cannot have caused the fraud to have occurred if it did).
While awaiting final adjudication of your application, you can also receive a work permit, and any pending immigration action is frozen (i.e. deportation actions if your spouse refused to attend your LPR interview).
If you have a question about VAWA, divorce, spousal abuse, or family immigration activities, CALL US! We can help -- we've been doing this for years, and have considerable experience on helping women (and men!) who are in an abusive situation.
By the way -- spousal support is often possible if the I-864 was filed by the now abusing spouse. Be sure to speak to us about this -- as it could be critical to getting money until you have a job. I-864 litigation must take place in FEDERAL COURT, not the court where you get a state divorce. This is tricky, so talk to an attorney first!
Sean R. Hanover, Esq.
The Hanover Law Firm is located in Washington, DC and Fairfax, VA. We practice
in both state and federal courts in VA, MD, and DC.