Under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), battered spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents may file an immigrant visa petition for themselves. The law allows them to self-petition for immigration benefits in order to seek safety and independence from the abuse.
According to the draft policy memorandum released by the USCIS approved VAWA self-petitioners are eligible for employment authorization based on the approval of the petition alone.
Under the policy memo, to get an employment authorization document (EAD) a petitioner with an approved I-360 and who is residing in the United States must file Form I-765 along with the filing fee and required photos with the Vermont Service Center.
Previously, they could obtain employment authorization only after being granted deferred action. Deferred action status means that an alien is a low priority for immigration enforcement or deportation and provides legal basis for employment authorization. When granted, the status is valid for 15 months, renewable in 12-month increments.
VAWA self-petitioners who are spouses, children or parents of the U.S. citizen abuser are also eligible for employment authorization without need of deferred action and even before approval of the I-360 self-petition, because they can file the I-485 adjustment application concurrently with the I-360 as immediate relatives.
The policy memo however does not change the policy when it comes to the principal beneficiary’s derivative children, who must still rely on a grant of deferred action in order to be eligible for an EAD.
Under the new policy memo, battered spouses of A (ambassador), E(iii) (Australian specialty occupation worker), G (foreign government or international organization representative) and H (alien specialty occupation workers) nonimmigrants are also eligible for employment authorization.
To be eligible for an EAD, the applicant must be the spouse who accompanied or followed to join a principal alien in the nonimmigrant category and he must be maintaining status as a nonimmigrant. The applicant or the applicant’s child must have been battered or has been the subject of extreme cruelty perpetrated by the principal alien spouse.
The battered spouse of the nonimmigrant must file Form I-765 along with the new supplemental Form I-765V with the Vermont Service Center, along with evidence of the qualifying nonimmigrant status of both the applicant and the abusive spouse; evidence of spousal relationship; and evidence of abuse such as police reports, court records, medical records, reports from social service agencies, and a protective order, if any.
If the applicant is unable to provide documentary evidence of the nonimmigrant spouse’s status, he must provide some identifying evidence such as name, place of birth, country of birth, date of birth, date of entry into the U.S., I-94 number, name of employer, etc.
If the application is approved, the EAD will be valid for a period of time equal to the remainder of the applicant’s current period of authorized stay or duration of status, if applicable.