Some spouses on visa who are victims of domestic abuse can apply for EAD: AILA

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CHICAGO: The Chicago Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has welcomed the introduction of Form I-765V, Application for Employment Authorization for Abused Nonimmigrant Spouse.

Form I-765V allows spouses of certain nonimmigrant visa holders to apply for employment authorization independently so that they are not forced to remain in the abusive relationship. The application is confidential so the abuser is not notified, allowing the applicant to seek safety and independence, according to a press release by AILA.

Section 814(c) of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2005 amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to provide eligibility for employment authorization to certain abused spouses of non-immigrants admitted under the A-1, A-2, A-3, E-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, G-5, and H1-B, H1-B1, H2-A, H2-B, H-3, and H-4 categories.

These spouses are not otherwise entitled to employment authorization, forcing many to remain in abusive relationships for lack of any means to support themselves. After over ten years, the final rule implementing this section finally became effective, and the application form was published on January 19, 2017.

Applicants must provide evidence of their lawful entry, their marriage to the abuser (or, if divorced, that the divorce took place within the last two years and was connected to the abuse), the abuser’s status (or, identifying information that will allow USCIS to confirm the status), and that the applicant has been battered or subjected to extreme mental cruelty. If approved, employment authorization will be granted for two years and can be renewed under certain circumstances.

Mercedes Badia-Tavas, Chair of the Chicago Chapter of AILA, stated, “while the final rule took many years to implement, this is a celebrated example of how our immigration laws are used to help, not ignore or harm the most vulnerable non-immigrants in the U.S.”

AILA added: “Although the approval of employment authorization does not change the immigration status of the applicant, the ability to work offers hope to dependent spouses who were otherwise stuck in abusive situations because they could not afford to leave. We applaud this expansion and encourage Congress and the Administration to continue to expand protection under VAWA to non-immigrants as well as immigrants. AILA Chicago also reiterates its support for previous regulatory changes providing certain H-4s with the opportunity to seek employment authorization, and calls upon the current administration to honor this regulation.”

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