Immigrants that face domestic abuse or impending divorce have additional fears than the average person. Many immigrants fear about the implications reporting abuse or filing for divorce would have on their immigration status. For those who find themselves in this position, it is important to note that your immigration status should not hinder you from reporting a crime or filing for divorce. Your immigration status is not automatically in jeopardy contrary to what your abuser or soon to be ex-spouse says. The laws of the United States protects all within its borders regardless of immigration status. For those who are the victim of abuse or another crime, you should always report your crime to authorities. Additionally, if you wish to obtain a divorce, you should still file. Adjusting your immigration status from that point on is dependent on your current status, the status of your abuser or partner, and what happened to you.
In the case of abuse, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides a variety of protections for victim of abuse. For example, the U visa may be an option for you. The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to those who have been the victim of “substantial physical or mental abuse.” In addition to being the victim of physical or mental abuse, you must also possess information concerning criminal activity, be helpful or are willing to be helpful to authorities perusing the criminal activity, obtain a certification from those or other authorities, and be admissible under the immigration law or qualify for a waiver.
Divorce makes it more difficult, but not impossible to adjust status. In all cases, you must show that you married in “good faith” and not for the purpose of immigration status benefits. In order to prove that you entered your marriage in “good faith”, you need to provide proof of a joint life, such as joint bank accounts, photos, joint leases, and a variety of other things. Also, your status is in part dependent on how you arrived in the U.S., your status when you arrived, and how long you have been here.
If you have been abused or are filing for divorce and are worried about your immigration status, it is important to contact an attorney. An attorney can review your options with you and will know the ins and outs of the immigration system. For more information, please contact us at [email protected].
 Information on the Legal Rights Available to Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence in the United States and Facts about Immigrating on a Marriage-Based Visa Fact Sheet, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (1/11/2011).
 Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (06/12/2018).
 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Provides Protections for Immigrant Women and Victims of Crime, American immigration Council (May 7, 2012).
 How Will Divorce or Separation Affect My Immigration Status?, The People’s Law Library of Maryland (02/06/19).