VAWA and Asylum: Meeting Someone New
Life does not stop after filing a request for a green card or a work permit. The weeks continue. Meet cutes happen: hand holding while looking into each other’s eyes, if one is lucky. Survivors, who I represent for both asylum and Violence and Women Act cases, struggle with new relationships. How do we trust again? Will they hurt us? Importantly for my clients, how will a new partner or spouse affect my case?
The Relationship After the Abuse
I cannot claim to know exactly how a survivor feels, but I do understand. I met a kind man. He is vulnerable, open to discussing former pain inflicted when past relationships have failed. He reads self-help books, is willing to attend couples’ therapy, and will do the necessary work to keep his chosen relationship from crumbling. He has mastered adulting. Moreover, he is tall, dark, and handsome. Sounds like perfection.
Perhaps not. I am accustomed to men withholding their feelings. I was raised by a Cuban father who never said, “I love you.” My lifetime has been devoted to performing financially and looking beautiful as a means of earning the “I’m proud of you” like an elementary child working for gold stars. Tell me I have done well. Tell me there is no one better. Make me believe you. This is my love language. Survivors struggle internally. What do we do with a partner who is willing to do the necessary, including improve themselves, to continue our relationship? How do we actively choose a good man or woman when one was raised to love a stoic or an abuser? How does my inner-child quell her fear and help my adult-self choose the kind man?
Marry After Petition Approval, Before Asylum Grant
A VAWA self-petition (Form I-360) will be denied if the survivor marries while it is pending. After the self-petition is approved, however, a survivor can marry even if the residency, green card, has not been issued. Said differently, a VAWA survivor can marry before getting a green card.
In contrast, a person who has applied for asylum SHOULD marry while the asylum is pending. If the spouse is a US citizen or legal permanent resident, the asylum application will be withdrawn. (Consult a lawyer before withdrawing a pending asylum application.) If the spouse is foreign born, they may receive a work permit as a part of the primary applicant’s asylum case.
We deserve the best. Sometimes marriage. Sometimes, most certainly not.
Disclaimer – These entries are based on real life events. Family member names, when used, are real. Client names are changed for privacy.