Integrity Legal

4th Nov 2009

As stated previously on this blog, in most cases where a foreign spouse has entered the United States of American on the CR1 visa the Petitioner and the Beneficiary must jointly file a petition to lift conditions of the Beneficiary’s permanent residence. Unfortunately, there are situations where the Beneficiary is in an abusive relationship and this creates a problem because the Beneficiary does not want to contact the Petitioner in order to have the Petitioner assist with filing the application for a lift of conditions. Luckily, there was a law passed to deal with this problem: the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

The Violence Against Women Act was passed by Congress in 1994. Under its provisions, the abused spouse of a United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident is allowed to self-file for a lift of conditions. This allows for the battered or abused spouse to file for a lift of conditions without the assistance, or even the notification, of the abusive spouse. It should be noted that the abuse does not need to be physical, emotionally or psychologically abusive behavior on the part of the US Citizen or Lawful Permanent resident spouse could be used as a legitimate reason to submit a self-filed petition to lift conditions. Those who have been in an abusive relationship and wish to self-file for their lift of conditions should document the behavior they feel is abusive.

It should be noted that these petitions are likely to be heavily scrutinized. The policy reason behind the enforcement of a Conditional Residence period is to be certain that a marriage is bona fide and not a “sham marriage,” or “marriage of convenience” which was entered into for the sole purpose of gaining a US Immigration benefit. In some cases involving a VAWA self-filed petition for a lifting of conditional resident status, suspicions could be raised in the mind of the adjudicating USCIS officer as to the bona fides of the original marriage and the bona fides of the claim to have been the victim of abuse. For this reason, gathering evidence of abuse is critical to a sucessful VAWA petition. In cases involving physical abuse, a police report documenting an incident where the American Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse was abusive could be a strong piece of evidence used to support a self-filed VAWA petition. Also, retaining a licensed attorney with experience in United States Immigration matters may be advisable as VAWA petitions can be highly complex.

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