United States and Citizenship Services (“USCIS”) recently released a Policy Memorandum
that provides guidance to USCIS officers regarding recent amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) that extend the ability to self petition to battered or abused parents of US citizens.
The authority for filing a self petition as a battered or abused parent of a US citizen is found in INA Section 204(a)(1)(A) of the Act. It provides that a parent who was subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by their U.S. Citizen son or daughter may self petition.
Who is eligible to apply?
Any parent, step-parent or adoptive parent may self petition.
The following parent/child relationships qualify:
1. The parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who is at least 21 when the petition is filed; or
2. The parent of a former U.S. citizen son or daughter who lost or renounced citizenship within the two years prior to filing the self petition as a result of an incident of domestic violence. At the time of loss of status, the son or daughter must have been at least 21 years of age; or
3. The parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter who was at least 21 years of age and who died within the two years prior to filing the self petition.
In order for a step parent to file, that step-parent must prove:
1. The abusive U.S. citizen son or daughter had not reached the age of eighteen years at the time the marriage creating the step-relationship occurred;
2. The step-relationship existed, by law, at the time of the abuse; and
3. The step-relationship existed by law, or as a matter of fact, at the time of filing the VAWA self-petition. If at the time of filing, the step-relationship had been terminated due to death of the natural parent, legal separation, or divorce, the self-petitioning stepparent will remain eligible to file provided that, as a matter of fact, the step-relationship was ongoing. The relationship need not continue after filing.
A petitioner must show that he or she:
1. Has good moral character;
2. Resides with or has previously resided with the abusive U.S. citizen son or daughter; and
3. Has been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen son or daughter.
The filing requirements are the same as they are for all VAWA petitions. Petitions are filed on Form I-360 and must include the following:
1. Evidence of the abuser’s U.S. citizenship;
2. Evidence of the parental (or step-parent or adoptive parent) relationship;
3. Evidence the self-petitioner resides or has resided with the abusive U.S. citizen son or daughter;
4. Evidence of the battery or extreme cruelty;
5. Evidence of good moral character of the self-petitioner.
The memorandum discusses the evidentiary requirements in more detail. It is interesting to note that the petitions may be filed from abroad; there is no requirement that the petitioner be in the United States. Petitions from abroad must still contain the same items as petitions filed in the United States.
While it is terrific that Congress is permitting abused and battered parents to apply, as a practical manner, I believe that very few people will. One of the main difficulties I see is an inability of elderly parent to learn about the law and apply for the benefit on their own. If parents are in the United States, they are usually taking care of the children or grandchildren. They may depend on their children for support. I do not see parents as willing and able to file on their own.
Another difficulty I see is a lack of awareness about the law. Most likely, if a parent finds out about the law, it will be through a social worker who is witnessing abuse. If the government is serious about giving people the right to apply, it would be helpful if USCIS did some outreach to community based organizations to inform them of the policy memorandum. The benefit will only help if people are made aware of it.