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Immigration Law - Houston

Immigration and Spousal Abuse

Online dating and making friends via social media is a popular way for people to meet each other. This can even happen across country borders, with people meeting each other online and making the decision to meet in person. When a woman from another country meets an American man online, then he visits her (or vice versa) and they decide to marry, things might seem great at first – new marriage and a new home in the United States. However, not all of these stories have a happy ending. Some involve immigration and spousal abuse.

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Sometimes, when young women from overseas come to the U.S. and marry American men, it’s anything but happily ever after for them – some overseas brides very quickly find themselves in abusive situations. This abuse can mean different things, from physical abuse to emotional abuse to sexual abuse. Sometimes it can feel as if they are locked in a prison, and sometimes they may actually be locked inside their homes with limited ability to leave the house.

Let’s take a look at a few questions that may come up for women or men in these situations:

Does it matter if the marriage happened in the U.S. or in a foreign country?

No, it doesn’t matter as long as the marriage is legal where it took place. In immigration law, any legal marriage in any country is recognized as long as it does not violate U.S. law, so most of the time it doesn’t matter if the marriage was performed in the U.S. or abroad. (An example of a marriage that violates U.S. law would be a marriage between a person who is already married to someone else. Since bigamy is illegal in the United States, a marriage between a man and a woman who will be his second wife while he remains married to his first wife, violates U.S. law.)

Immigration and Spousal Abuse

There are a lot of things that can make it hard for people who come to the U.S., get married and find themselves in a abusive relationship: language barriers, lack of social support systems, fear of deportation, and fear of having nowhere to go if things go badly.

However, if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, even if you’re still in the immigration process, you should reach out to local domestic violence or abuse organizations who can help. If you are in danger or are being cut off from any sort of support, you need to develop a plan to get themselves out of the situation. This is where your local nonprofit domestic violence organization can come into play – they have the experience and resources needed to help.

If necessary, call 911 and get emergency help to stay safe. If you are being physically hurt, call the police and report what is happening so you have a record of what is taking place. Remember that even if it’s scary, calling law enforcement can help you get documentation for your situation and the steps you took that your immigration attorney may be able to use later on. Even if you are not here legally, calling 911 does not automatically mean you will be deported. Get the emergency help you need.

My spouse is threatening to get me deported

If your spouse is abusive and is threatening to report you to Immigration Customs Enforcement or get you deported, you might feel like you can’t call the police, can’t get help, and you just have to stay in the relationship and hope your spouse continues with your immigration process.  Many times, people in abusive relationships feel like they don’t have any control over their lives. It may feel like there is no help for people in this country without proper documentation when they are being abused in any way.

However, abuse and sex trafficking are illegal, and therefore you can get help when you need it – and an immigration attorney can help you apply for legal status even after you are out of the bad situations. A person is not automatically deported when their spouse contacts ICE or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you have been abused or sex trafficked, tell your immigration attorney and provide any documentation you are able to. It can help your case in the long run, even if it is difficult to talk about.

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I’m an immigrant and I’m being abused by my spouse

If you’re immigrating based on marriage and you’re being abused or trafficked, you’ll need to talk to a social services organization on how to get out of the situation and protect yourself. Once you are safe, get immigration help.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is available for both men and women who are immigrant spouses. VAWA allows immigrant spouses of permanent residents (green card holders) and U.S. citizens to apply for a green card based on physical, or psychological/emotional abuse.

One option for people who are victims of Domestic Violence and other crimes is the U Visa for victims of certain crimes who have helped law enforcement or may be able to help law enforcement. The U visa requires that a crime be reported, and that a person be available to help law enforcement in an investigation of the crime. This is another reason it’s so important to both report and cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

Another option is the T Visa for victims of trafficking, including sex trafficking and forced labor or servitude. When talking to your immigration attorney, be sure to be very clear and honest with what has happened to you. If your freedom was restricted, tell your attorney. If someone forced you to have sex with others or tried to force you to perform sexual acts in exchange for anything of value, tell your attorney.

Overseas Brides Who Marry US Citizens and Find Themselves in an Abusive Relationship

Watch Houston Immigration Lawyer, Kathryn N. Karam, P.C. talk about Abuse and Overseas Brides with Texas family law attorney, Cindy Hide, on YouTube here.

Houston Immigration Lawyer for Victims of Crime, Trafficking, and Domestic Violence or Abuse

It can be scary to be in a new country without any support or knowledge of how the legal system works, especially if you are not fully through the immigration process yet. But if you or someone you know is in a situation in which you’re being abused, harmed, controlled or threatened, it’s important to get out of that situation and get help. As part of getting the help you need, an immigration lawyer can work with you navigate the immigration process and determine your options based on the information you provide. Don’t let the threat of deportation stop you from getting help and staying safe.

Schedule a consultation with Karam Immigration Law

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Board Certified Immigration Attorney




We are pleased to inform you that Kathryn and her team are now a part of Quan Law Group

5444 Westheimer Rd., Suite 1700
Houston, Texas 77056
United States(713) 625-9200

“Kathryn’s Law Firm has been an absolute wonderful experience to work with. They went above and beyond to get me my Visa to China when I was denied the first time. Kathryn is a true professional and is a step above her competition!!!” -Edward

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