Domestic Violence Awareness at The University of Michigan
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For Immigrants

When a battered woman's immigration status is an issue, she should immediately contact an immigration attorney familiar with the options available to victims of domestic violence seeking permanent immigration status. Two options, described below, are available to battered immigrant women married to lawful permanent residents or United States citizens. Many battered immigrant women do not qualify for either of these options. However, an immigration attorney can explore other options that may be available to her. On this page, the words "woman" and "she" are used to refer to the survivor of domestic violence. According to the Center for Disease Control, 85% of survivors are women assaulted by male partners. It is important to remember, however, that in the other 15% of cases, men assaulted by women, or men and women in same-sex relationships, may be the survivor. The Violence Against Women Act is gender-neutral and covers both men and women, as survivors and perpetrators, in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.

The Violence Against Women Act includes a provision to allow battered immigrant women to self-petition to become permanent residents. The self-petition is only available to a battered immigrant woman married to a lawful permanent resident or citizen, whose spouse has never applied for her to become a permanent resident; or whose spouse applied but later withdrew the petition; or if the petition is still pending. The self-petition must be submitted before a divorce is final. If she is served with divorce or annulment papers, she should talk to an immigration attorney immediately. Another option is available to a battered woman who is a conditional resident. She is eligible if her spouse has already filed an application for her to become a permanent resident, but has failed to take any further steps. She must show that she entered the marriage in good faith but it was terminated; she or her children were subject to battering or extreme cruelty by her husband during the marriage; and deportation would result in extreme hardship.

One of the most important pieces in support of a battered woman's petition is her story in her own words. The attorney can advise her about the 9 or 10 legal factors that are important for her case. Advocates can help her put together information and documents to support her story and the history of domestic violence. Useful information includes: a chronological history of events; police records; apologetic or threatening notes and letters from the batterer; torn, bloody or burned clothes; past or current restraining orders (or court records documenting her attempts to get a restraining order); criminal court records; medical records documenting injuries (even if she did not disclose the domestic violence); photos; statements of witnesses; and statements or observations from service providers.

The International Center at the University of Michigan can assist battered immigrant women who are members of the University of Michigan community. They are located at 603 E Madison, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. They are available by phone Monday thru Friday at 734-764-9310. Their website is SafeHouse Center can also assist with referrals to local attorneys and advocacy within the Washtenaw County court system as well as counseling and crisis intervention. Their 24-hour help line is 734-995-5444, and their website is