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Legal Information: Federal

Immigration

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Updated: 
May 17, 2021

If I am married to an abuser, do I qualify?

If you answer “yes” to any of the questions below, you may qualify for a VAWA self-petition, regardless of whether your partner is of the same sex1 or the opposite sex:

  1. Are you currently married to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident?
  2. Did you get divorced from your US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse within the past two years? And was the divorce connected to the abuse? Note: You must be able to answer “yes” to both questions to qualify under this category.
  3. Did you marry your US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse believing s/he was unmarried but later found out s/he was already married?
  4. Were you married to a US citizen spouse who died within the past two years? Note: This does not apply if your spouse was a lawful permanent resident.
  5. Were you married to your US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse but s/he lost his/her immigration status within the past two years due to domestic violence?

Even if you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you will still have to prove to USCIS that your marriage was in “good faith.”2 This means that you didn’t marry your spouse primarily because you wanted to get immigration status.3 However, it’s OK if one of the reasons you got married was for immigration purposes – as long as you also got married because you wanted to spend your life together. For information on how to show good faith marriage, see How can I prove that I got married in good faith?

1Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015)
2 INA § 204(a)(1)(A)(iii), INA § 204(a)(1)(B)(ii)
3 See, e.g., Matter of Patel, 19 I&N Dec. 774, 783 (BIA 1988) (“Such marriages, entered into for the primary purpose of circumventing the immigration laws, have not been recognized as enabling an alien spouse to obtain immigration benefits”) (citing Matter of McKee, 17 I&N Dec. 332 (BIA 1980); Lutwak v. United States, 344 U.S. 604 (1953); McLat v. Longo, 412 F. Supp. 1021 (D.V.I. 1976); Matter of M-, 8 I&N Dec. 217 (BIA 1958)); Matter of McKee, 17 I&N Dec. 332, 333 (BIA 1980) (“A marriage that is entered into for the primary purpose of circumventing the immigration laws, referred to as a fraudulent or sham marriage, has not been recognized as enabling an alien spouse to obtain immigration benefits”); Lutwak v. U.S., 344 U.S. 604, 613 (1953) (finding no good faith marriage where there was “no intention to marry and consummate the marriages even for a day”); U.S. v. Rubenstein, 151 F.2d 915 (2nd Cir. 1945) (holding that there was no valid marriage where marriage was entered into solely for immigration purposes, and not for ordinarily understood purpose of marriage)