Immigrants are particularly vulnerable to suffering violence and exploitation by others because they may fear deportation, not trust the police, not speak English, live away from family and friends and may be ignorant of state and federal laws. For these and many other reasons, immigrants in Kentucky may be reluctant to report crimes or domestic violence to the local police or to seek help.
Those who are seeking legal status through marriage to a U.S. citizen are especially at risk.
- Our marriage-based immigration process involves several steps, so an immigrant can obtain legal immigration status and as time passes be eligible for citizenship.
- The steps depend on which marriage-based visa was used to travel to the U.S., as well as other factors.
- An immigrant may think they need to put up with physical or sexual abuse by their new spouse to remain legally in the country, but that’s not the case.
If an immigrant is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or other crime, he or she should report it to the local police. As far as their immigrations status is concerned, there are three ways immigrants who are dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault and other specific crimes can seek legal immigration status for themselves and their children. The application is confidential, so no one — including a spouse, abuser or family member — will know the application has been filed.
These three immigration benefits each have specific requirements that must be established:
- Self-petitions for legal status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
- Cancellation of removal under VAWA
- U-nonimmigrant status (crime victims)
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides information to immigrants to try to help them get through these situations. Due to the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) the U.S. government also provides foreign fiancé(e)s and spouses immigrating to the country information about their legal rights, as well as criminal or domestic violence histories of their U.S. citizen fiancé(e)s and spouses. The law also prohibits U.S. citizens from sponsoring multiple visas for foreign fiancé(e)s if they have a history of violent crimes.
Though marrying a citizen is one path to legal status, that marriage must be genuine and not be a sham to live in the U.S. without proper documentation.
- Immigrants cannot legally obtain legal immigration status if they knowingly marry a citizen to evade immigration law or solely for an immigration benefit.
- Marriage fraud is a crime and, if convicted, a guilty party could be imprisoned for up to five years and fined up to $250,000.
- Immigrants involved in marriage fraud could be removed from the country and be barred from future immigration benefits in the U.S.
If you have any questions about the marriage-based immigration process or you’re an immigrant who’s the victim of abuse or other criminal acts, we can help. If you live in Kentucky and have questions or concerns about immigration law or are seeking a way to reside in the country legally, call CF Abogados at (859) 971-0060 or fill out the online contact form.