Let me write this in point form:
1. Was in a very abusive marriage for a year. I separated from wife in October 2006. Filed for VAWA and was approved. Got PR Card in 2009.
2. Abusive wife lives in New Jersey, I live in CA. I have not filed for divorce yet - the thought of her abuse and what I went through still makes me physically ill. No children, no property together, no bank or credit card accounts together.
3. Under INA 319(A) approved VAWA Green Card holders can file for US Citizenship after three years of obtaining PR status.
Question: Is it mandatory for me to first get a divorce from my abusive wife (since this was a VAWA approved application) to get US Citizenship? In other words, will I be asked why I have not divorced my abusive wife yet by the officer?
In your situation, you only need to have three years as a permanent resident to apply for naturalization because your permanent residency was obtained through an approved VAWA petition. The ability to maintain a relationship with your US citizen spouse is seriously compromised when you are eligible to file a VAWA petition and this usually results in an inability to file for naturalization in three years due to the high likelihood of divorce in an abusive marriage. Making you wait two additional years to naturalize because your US citizen spouse abused you is absurd.
VAWA does not require you divorce from your abusive spouse nor does it require that you remain married to your abusive spouse as divorce is not the point of VAWA.
You correctly took advantage of VAWA to obtain permanent residency years ago and you have to get out of the habit of worrying about your abusive spouse or your VAWA approval being attacked during a naturalization application. Your VAWA application is not relevant to the naturalization officer and most have the common sense to correlate the fact that you obtained permanent residency through VAWA and divorced the abusive US citizen spouse. Divorcing an abusive spouse is sometimes very easy for the victim and other times it is extremely difficult. The USCIS had the opportunity to probe into your VAWA claim when you applied for it and they simply do not care now.
So, bottom line is to apply for naturalization as soon as you are eligible pursuant to the three year rule and really look at divorcing your abusive spouse.
No, but you should get a divorce so that you can move on with your life.
J Charles Ferrari Eng & Nishimura 213.622.2255 The statement above is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice, as not all the facts are known. You should retain an attorney to review all the facts specific to your case in order to receive advise specific to your case. The statement above does not create an attorney/client relationship. Answers on Avvo can only be general ones, as specific answers would require knowledge of all the facts. As such, they may or may not apply to the question.
Talk to an immigration and family lawyer. I know that the divorce will be painful, but might make the most sense.
www.capriotti.com -- [email protected] -- Senior Legal Counsel -- Capriotti International Law -- Legal disclaimer: This answer is offered for informational purposes only. It does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Contact the American Immigration Lawyers Association www.aila.org for a referral to an experienced immigration attorney.
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