The marriage-based immigration process involves several steps to obtain legal immigration status in the United States, and over time, to be eligible for citizenship.  These steps depend on the type of marriage-based visa you travel on to the United States, as well as other factors.  The following information is an overview of some of these types of visas, as well as information on your legal rights.

K-1 nonimmigrant status (as the fiancé(e) of a United States citizen). You are required to either marry the United States citizen within 90 days of entry or to depart the United States.  Following your marriage to the U.S. citizen who petitioned for you, you must file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485).  If your Form I-485 is approved, your status will be adjusted from a K nonimmigrant to that of a conditional permanent resident.  You will have that conditional status for two years.

If you remain in the U.S. without marrying the U.S. citizen who sponsored your K-1 visa, or marry someone else, you will violate the terms of your visa, have no legal status, and may be subject to removal proceedings or other penalties.

K-3 nonimmigrant status (as the spouse of a United States citizen). You are allowed to enter the United States temporarily while waiting for approval of a family-based visa petition (Form I-130).  Once the Form I-130 is approved, you are entitled to lawful permanent residence (a “green card”) and will need to file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485). 

All other marriage-based immigration status holders should refer to the information given to them from the U.S. consulate.  Additional information may be found online at

Baitul Hemayah’s domestic violence counselors support victims and help them develop the skills they need to walk away from abusive relationships and live successfully on their own. They also work to stop the cycle of violence. Some people who experience abuse in childhood become enablers, involving themselves in a series of relationships that escalate into abuse and violence. Some also become perpetrators; many more people carry scars from long ago violence. It affects their ability to function normally in the workplace and develop healthy relationships. Counselor’s help these individuals develop self esteem, identify relationship patterns and potential red flags, and behave with an appropriate level of assertiveness.

A4.    There are three ways immigrants who become victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and some other specific crimes may apply for legal immigration status for themselves and their child(ren). A victim’s application is confidential and no one, including an abuser, crime perpetrator or family member, will be told that you applied.

  • Self-petitions for legal status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
  • Cancellation of removal under VAWA
  • U-nonimmigrant status (crime victims)

These immigration benefits each have specific requirements that must be established.  Consult an immigration lawyer who works with victims of domestic violence to discuss how any of these immigration benefits may affect or assist you.

A2.    All people in the United States, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, are guaranteed basic protections under both civil and criminal law.  Laws governing families provide you with:

  • The right to obtain a protection order for you and your child(ren).
  • The right to legal separation or divorce without the consent of your spouse.
  • The right to share certain marital property.  In cases of divorce, the court will divide any property or financial assets you and your spouse have together.
  • The right to ask for custody of your child(ren) and financial support.  Parents of children under the age of 21 often are required to pay child support for any child not living with them.

Consult a family lawyer who works with immigrants to discuss how any of these family law options may affect or assist you.

Under U.S. law, any crime victim, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, can call the police for help or obtain a protection order.

Call the police at 911 if you or your child(ren) are in danger.  The police may arrest your fiancé(e), spouse, partner, or another person if they believe that person has committed a crime.  You should tell the police about any abuse that has happened, even in the past, and show any injuries.  Anyone, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, may report a crime.

A1.   Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior when one intimate partner or spouse threatens or abuses the other partner.  Abuse may include physical harm, forced sexual relations, emotional manipulation (including isolation or intimidation), and economic and/or immigration-related threats.  While most recorded incidents of domestic violence involve men abusing women or children, men can also be victims of domestic violence.

Domestic violence may include sexual assault, child abuse and other violent crimes.  Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that you do not agree to, even with your spouse, and can be committed by anyone.  Child abuse includes: physical abuse (any injury that does not happen by accident, including excessive punishment), physical neglect (failure to provide food, shelter, medical care or supervision), sexual abuse, and emotional abuse (threats, withholding love, support or guidance).