Days are usually hectic at our office, but we rarely get a case that makes us stop in our tracks and refocus our work as much as one of these. It usually starts with a phone call from the beneficiary. They often sound nervous and scared, but the facts are usually similar. They met who they thought it was a loving and supporting partner (who happened to be a U.S. citizen), they married this person, and they filed the petition and adjustment application based on the marriage. However, now things have changed and the spouse refuses to go to the marriage interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Both the beneficiary and petitioner are required to attend the marriage-based interview with an immigration officer. If your spouse refuses to go, this could be a problem and put your whole process at risk. Now, sometimes the beneficiary qualifies for another kind of petition, such as a VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) self-petition. At times the refusal to attend the interview is part of a pattern of abuse and control by the petitioner. For instance, if the petitioner has ever been abusive against the applicant, either physically harming, insulting, belittling, manipulating, threatening, or taking advantage financially of the beneficiary, among other situations, VAWA could be an option.
This was the case of a recent caller at our office. This gentleman called us and explained his situation. His wife had violently assaulted him several times, insulted him with degrading and humiliating terms, manipulated him into giving her full control of his finances (but refusing to let him spend money), and now she was threatening not to attend the marriage interview and file for divorce. He was afraid to contact the police or request a restraining order, fearing this would only enrage his wife even more.
Thankfully, there is a solution for him. Based on the information and documents he provided, our office filed a VAWA self-petition for him (yes, VAWA is not only for women). He had all the necessary evidence to demonstrate he met the requirements, among them:
- He married his spouse in good faith and with the intention to form a life together;
- The abuser is a green card holder or U.S. citizen
- The applicant has good moral character
- He resided with the spouse at some point during the marriage
In addition to submitting a VAWA request, our office informed USCIS of this filing and asked to hold the green card application in abeyance (temporary suspension). Once his VAWA is adjudicated, the green card application will move forward, but this time based on the VAWA. Given the strict confidentiality rules for these applications, he abusive spouse will not be informed of the filing. Now our client can focus on his life and not fear for his immigration status.
If you or someone you know is in this situation, please consider contacting an experienced and reputable immigration attorney to discuss your legal options.