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USCIS to Start Accepting Work Permit Applications for Abused Spouses of Temporary Visa Holders

U.S. Citizenship and immigration Services recently announced a new Work Permit (EAD) Process for Abused H-4’s and other Non-Immigrant Dependent Spouses. Please keep reading for more details and answers to frequently asked questions!

On March 8, 2016, USCIS issued a memo on how a dependent spouse of certain non-immigrant visa holders can request an employment authorization document (often called an EAD or work permit) if they have been abused or subjected to extreme cruelty by the principal visa holding spouse. The same dependent spouses would also qualify if their child has been abused or subjected to extreme cruelty.

The Memo gives force to law Congress enacted over 10 years ago. This helps those who are dependent on their abusive spouses for both their legal status and economic security to remove themselves from the abuse.

Contact Antonini & Cohen for complete details

Please call Attorney Nisha Karnani at Antonini & Cohen Immigration Law Group for further assistance. Nisha has been actively involved in the efforts to get this Memo released and has advocated for changes, implemented in this final Memo, to protect survivors of abuse. She has practiced in this area, as well as employment and family immigration, for 15 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

What visa types are covered? H-1B, H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, E-3, A-1, A-2, A-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, and G-5.

When can I file? Applicants must wait until USCIS publishes the application for this process (Form I-765V) to file. USCIS has not yet indicated how long they expect this to take.

How long will the work permit last and can I renew it? The work permit will be issued for 2 years, and can be renewed under the guidelines in the memo. While this work permit is not indefinite, it should give you time to get your bearings. Be sure to promptly examine an alternative immigration status. U visas are commonly utilized by domestic violence survivors but there may be other options under the employment, family, student and humanitarian visa categories. See a reputable immigration lawyer or accredited immigration non-profit for assistance with your options.

Will my spouse find out I have filed? USCIS confirms this process will be confidential, similar to other VAWA provisions, to protect the safety of the applicant. It’s a good idea to designate a safe address for correspondence to make sure you receive USCIS communications.

How do I prove abuse or my spouse’s status? I don’t have any documents. USCIS understands that some applicants may not be able provide proof of their spouse’s status; so UCIS will, therefore, conduct its own verification if needed. USCIS will review requests under the “any credible evidence” standard, which can include various types of evidence (police reports, arrest records, court records, temporary protective orders, shelter records, medical records, 911 transcripts, from domestic violence agencies or other social service organizations, psychological assessments, affidavits, etc.). Contact a reputable attorney or non-profit specializing in helping immigrant victims of abuse for assistance in filing.

What if I fall out of status or change status? USCIS requires you to have been last admitted into the U.S. in the derivative non-immigrant status covered by this rule, that you are currently living in the U.S., and that your spouse is maintaining their non-immigrant status. So a lapse or change in your status might not automatically disqualify you if other requirements in the Memo are met.

What if I am divorced? If you file the application for this process (Form I-765V) within two years of a divorce related to the abuse, you would still qualify for the work permit. It is important that you seek help from a reputable family lawyer if you are getting pressured into a quick divorce. Be aware that some abusers have filed for divorce while their spouse was abroad and did not notify them. If you learn that your spouse filed for divorce without proper notice, or forged your signature on documents, you should contact a reputable family law attorney to help you communicate this with the court.

Where can I view this UCIS memo? See USCIS Policy Memorandum PM-602-0130: Eligibility for Employment Authorization for Battered Spouses of Certain Nonimmigrants, March 8, 2016.

What is the U.S. law referenced in this article? Section 814(c) of the Violence Against Women Act and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 [VAWA 2005, Public Law 109–162].