Self-Petitioning Process Essay

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Self-petitioning is a process that allows a person to file for U.S. legal residence status on his or her own without the aid of his or her spouse. The self-petitioning process is a crucial procedure that enables immigrant families to petition for citizenship independently from their abusers to enable persons to live a safer, autonomous life free from abuse.

Why Self-Petitioning Is Needed

Traditionally, a USCIS Form 1-130 or a Petition for Alien Relative is filed by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident on behalf of his or her spouse or children so that the family member can remain in the Unites States or leave his or her native country. There are numerous avenues to establish lawful permanent residency. However, self-petitioning offers unique assistance to immigrant persons and their children who have been abused by their spouse or parent. For example, if there is domestic violence within an immigrant household, the abuser may withhold information, refuse to file the required documents, and/or threaten to deport the abused person in order to exert and/or maintain power and control over him or her. In addition, like most victims of violence, many immigrants do not report the incidents to anyone, including the police, for several reasons. Some victims are ashamed and suffer the abuse in silence. Some do not disclose the abuse in fear of retribution, such as physical harm and/or threats of deportation. In addition, cultural differences and language barriers often create obstacles for victims seeking out the resources that are needed. In 1994, U.S. Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, which was amended in 2005. This legislation contains a provision for battered immigrant spouses or children to petition for legal residency without the aid or knowledge of their abuser. There are specific guidelines and requirements to qualify for this type of relief. The major requirements are listed below.

Self-Petitioning Requirements

There are certain requirements in order to be eligible to self-petition for both the spouse and the child of the abuser. Generally eligible petitioners include a spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is the batterer, unmarried children under the age of 21, the parent of a child (unmarried and under 21) who has been abused by the batterer who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or a battered child (unmarried and under 21) who has been abused by the U.S. citizen resident parent. Children who have not been battered may be included in the petition. When a spouse self-petitions, he or she must be legally married to the batterer who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The permanent resident and the spouse must have entered the marriage in good faith, meaning not for the purposes of receiving immigration status. The spouse or child of the permanent resident or U.S. citizen must have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage. In addition, unless the batterer is employed with the U.S. government or a member of the U.S. armed services, the abuse must have taken place within the United States. Lastly, the spouse requesting to self-petition must be of good moral character. A person may self-petition if divorced. The self-petitioner must demonstrate that he or she divorced from the abuser within the past 2 years and that there was a connection between the divorce and the battery or extreme cruelty by the abusive spouse (H.R. Rep. No. 103–395 at 26–27, 1993, §1503(b)(1) of the Conference Report). To self-petition for a child, the child must be considered the child of the abuser. In addition, evidence demonstrating the relationship between the parent and child should also be submitted.


  1. Walker, J. (Ed.). (2004). U.S. Immigration and Nationality Retrieved from
  2. S. Citizen and Immigration Services:

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