How can I remove the conditions on my permanent residence now that I am separated from my abusive husband?

Question

Dear Nevin,

I am a citizen of the Dominican Republic. I was previously married to a U.S. citizen, and I have two U.S. citizen children from the marriage. My husband and I divorced in 2008.

In 2011, I met my current husband while I was visiting a friend in the U.S. We began dating and soon thereafter my husband asked me to marry him. In August of 2013, my husband and I married.

Unfortunately, after our wedding, my husband began controlling me. He prevented me from going out with friends and spending time with my children. Eventually, he became physically and emotionally abusive. At one point, the abuse was so bad that I thought about leaving the U.S. with my children and returning to the Dominican Republic. In December of 2013, I became a conditional permanent resident.

In January of 2014, I moved out of the family home to help reduce the conflict with my husband. I returned a few weeks later in an attempt to reconcile, but the abuse only intensified. In September, I obtained an order of protection against my husband and moved out of the family home permanently. I will be filing for a divorce next month.

Now that I am separated from my husband (soon to be divorced), will I be prevented from becoming a permanent resident?

Answer:

Thank you for your question. While I am unable to provide you with case-specific legal advice without first reviewing your case, I may be able to provide you with some helpful information.

When you received your permanent residence in 2013, it was “conditional.” Permanent residence is conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than two years old on the day you were given permanent residence. Normally, during the (90) day period immediately preceding the expiration of the conditional residence (as indicated on your permanent resident card), a married couple will jointly file a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, to have the conditions removed. However, conditional permanent residents may apply for a waiver of this joint filing requirement if: “you entered the marriage in good faith, but you have been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by your petitioning spouse.”

Based on the facts you provided in your question, you may be eligible to file a Form I-751 and request that the joint filing requirement be waived. If you file alone and ask to waive the joint filing requirement due to abuse, you will want to submit the following:

(1) Evidence of the abuse, such as copies of reports or official records issued by police, court, medical personnel, school officials, clergy, social workers, and other social service agency personnel; (2) Legal documents relating to an order of protection against the abuser or relating to any legal steps you may have taken to end the abuse; (3) Evidence that you sought safe haven from the abuse; (4) Photographs evidencing your injuries; (5) Copy of a divorce decree, if your marriage was terminated by divorce on grounds of physical abuse or extreme cruelty.

Congratulations on your brave decision to remove yourself from your abusive situation. If you have any further questions, I encourage you to contact the office.