Immigrant Victims/Survivors

New Beginnings does not discriminate based on gender, age, race, health status (including HIV-positive), physical, mental or emotional ability, sexual orientation, gender identity/ expression, socio-economic class, national origin, immigration status, or religious or political affiliation.

Interpretation services are available and provided free of charge, for any language. Click here to view our Multilingual Support page.

Reminder: One-to-one conversations and meetings between a New Beginnings advocate and a victim/survivor are protected by confidentiality and won’t be shared (including to confirm or deny use of services) with immigration authorities, medical personnel, law enforcement, or any other third party without explicit written consent (except in cases involving the suspected abuse/neglect of a child, elder or incapacitated adult, or when it is determined someone is a threat to themselves/others).

US passportImmigrant victims of domestic violence face unique challenges when trying to escape their abusers. They often feel trapped in their relationships because of immigration laws, language barriers, social isolation, and a lack of financial resources. Despite recent changes in federal laws, domestic violence remains a significant problem for immigrant women.

Unique challenges facing immigrant victims:

  • Abusers use their victim’s immigration status as a tool to force the victim to remain in the relationship.
  • Many victims come from cultures that accept domestic violence.
  • Immigrant victims have less access to legal and social services than U.S. citizens.
  • Immigrant batterers and victims may believe that the penalties and protections of the U.S. legal system do not apply to them.
  • For victims who do not speak English there can be a lack of access to bilingual shelters, financial assistance, or food.
  • It is also unlikely that they will have the assistance of a certified interpreter during their interactions with the legal system (court, police, 9-1-1, acquiring information about the legal system.)

Frequently Asked Questions from Immigrant Survivors


A: YES. You do not need to be a citizen or legal permanent resident to get a protection order. Click here to read more about the court process.


A: Seeking assistance from shelters or lawyers is extremely unlikely to result in the deportation of your partner. If you contact the police and your intimate partner is convicted of a crime, he/she may be deported, depending on his/her immigration status and the seriousness of the crime. It is important to remember that you must keep yourself and your children safe. It is your partner that has put himself/herself at risk by his/her actions.µ


A: “There are three possible forms of relief under VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)that have their own set of requirements:

1. VAWA self-petition

You may be eligible to “self-petition” for lawful permanent residence without the assistance of the abuser if you are abused by:

    • Your US citizen (USC) or legal permanent resident (LPR) spouse (or if that spouse has abused your child);
    • Your USC or LPR parent (including a step-parent); or
    • Your USC adult son or daughter (not an LPR son or daughter).*For more information on VAWA self-petitions, go to Womenlaw’s VAWA self-petition page.

2. Battered spouse or child waiver.

You may be able to apply for a “battered spouse or child waiver” if you have conditional legal permanent residence as a spouse (and in certain circumstances as a child) of a USC or LPR, and the USC or LPR has abused you.  With a battered spouse or child waiver, the abuser does not have to file the joint petition with you.** For more information on battered spouse and child waivers, go to Womenlaw’s Battered spouse or child waiver page.

3. VAWA cancellation of removal

If you are in removal proceedings (formerly known as deportation proceedings) before an immigration judge, and you are abused by your USC or LPR spouse or parent (or you have a child with the USC or LPR who is abused by him/her), it might be possible to apply for “VAWA cancellation of removal.”

*** However, because in order to be eligible to apply for VAWA cancellation of removal you have to be in removal proceedings, it is extremely important that you have an immigration attorney with experience in VAWA to advise you and represent you. For more information, go to our VAWA cancellation of removal page.

permanent residency card

Note: Because immigration procedures are so complex, we strongly suggest you consult with an immigration lawyer who has experience with VAWA.  Womenlaw’s Immigration/ International page lists organizations working on the area of immigration law and Womenlaw’s Finding a Lawyer page includes the contact information of legal organizations and lawyer referral services by state.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, but do not think that you qualify for immigration relief under VAWA…

….there may be other ways that you can obtain lawful immigration status in the United States.  For example, if you were not married to the abuser or the abuser was not a USC or LPR, you may still qualify for U nonimmigrant status– please see Womenlaw’s U Visa Laws for Crime Victims page.  The best way to determine your eligibility is to discuss your personal situation with an immigration attorney with experience in VAWA.” β


µ Adapted from NHCADSV’s Immigrant Women and Domestic Violence

β From VAWA Laws for Abuse Victims

New Beginnings is here to help, regardless of immigration status!