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Washington Public Assistance for Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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7924EN - This publication will tell you what benefits you may be eligible for if you are an immigrant and a victim of domestic violence. If you have a different immigration status, please read one of our other publications on this topic.

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Should I read this?

This publication explains what benefits you may be eligible for if you are an immigrant and a victim of domestic violence. 

I do not have any papers.  My husband makes me afraid.  He says he will call immigration officials if I complain to anyone. What can I do?

You may be able to apply for a green card for yourself and your children under the "Violence against Women Act" (VAWA) if:

  • you have been abused by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse OR

  • you are a child under age 21 and you have been abused by a US citizen or LPR parent OR

  • your child has been abused by a U.S. citizen or LPR parent

You may be eligible for other immigration relief even if you are not married or related to the person who abused you, or if s/he does not have legal status.  If you have questions about your eligibility for immigration relief, call the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) at 206-587-4009 or 509-854-2100. 

Will my family and I be eligible for benefits if we leave my abuser?

Probably, if you have:

  • an approved self-petition or notice of prima facie relief under the VAWA OR

  • an approved I-130 visa petition filed by your abuser OR

  • an approved application for suspension of deportation OR cancellation of removal under the VAWA

If you meet other eligibility requirements, you and your family members may be eligible for

  • Emergency Medicaid for treatment of certain emergency conditions in a hospital setting, cancer treatment, and dialysis

  • Insurance through Healthplanfinder - the state health insurance exchange, plus subsidies and help with out-of- pocket costs

  • Medical Care Services (MCS) - medical assistance for persons who are disabled or over 65

  • Children's and pregnant women's medical - all low-income children and pregnant women are eligible, regardless of immigration status

  • State Family Assistance (SFA) - cash assistance for families with dependent children

  • Aged Blind and Disabled (ABD) - cash assistance for persons who are disabled or over 65

  • Pregnant Women's Assistance (PWA) - cash assistance

  • the state-funded Food Assistance Program (food stamps)

  • Working Connections subsidized child care.

You may also be eligible for the following federal benefits, but you will have to wait five years after they grant your petition or application for immigration relief:

  • Non-emergency Medicaid for persons up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) - a federally funded cash program for families with dependent children

  • the federally funded Food Stamp program

I have been granted a U visa.  Am I eligible for any of these programs?

If you have a U visa but have not yet adjusted to lawful permanent resident ("green card") status, you and your family members may be eligible for

  • Emergency Medicaid for treatment of certain emergency conditions in a hospital setting, cancer treatment, and dialysis

  • Insurance through Healthplanfinder - the state health insurance exchange, plus subsidies and help with out-of-pocket costs

  • Medical Care Services (MCS) - medical assistance for persons who are disabled or over 65

  • Children's and pregnant women's medical assistance - available to all low-income children and pregnant women, regardless of immigration status

  • State Family Assistance (SFA) - cash assistance

  • Aged Blind and Disabled (ABD) cash assistance for persons who are disabled or over 65

  • Pregnant Women's Assistance (PWA) - cash assistance

  • the state-funded Food Assistance Program (food stamps)

How do I apply for help?

For cash and food assistance and for some medical programs, you will need to apply at the DSHS office nearest you.   For most medical programs, including insurance and subsidies, you can apply through Healthplanfinder online at www.wahealthplanfinder.org, by phone at 1-855-923-4633 (1-855-WAFINDER), or by requesting a paper application from Healthplanfinder or from your local DSHS office. If you go online, be sure to go the correct website: www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

If you apply for benefits in person, you should take a copy of your immigration papers, if you have them. (This includes a copy of your receipt notice from USCIS.)  If you do not have immigration papers yet, you may still be eligible for some help.  If you do not have a social security number, leave that line blank, or put "not available."  DSHS must accept emergency applications at any time.  They may be able to help you soon with cash, medical coupons, and food stamps.

What if I do not speak English?

DSHS must give you an interpreter. DSHS must also translate the letters it sends to you.  When you fill out an application, check the box that says that you have a hard time speaking, reading or writing English.  DSHS should also get you an interpreter if you have to call your worker on the phone or if she calls you back with a question.

What if I do not read and write, or have a hard time understanding information and following through?

When you apply for help, DSHS will ask you whether you need extra help, such as someone to help you fill out forms, or call you to explain your letters. If you do need this help, say so.  Ask them to provide you Necessary Supplemental Accommodation (NSA). Our publication called DSHS Help for People with Disabilities: Necessary Supplemental Accommodations (NSA) has more information on the services for someone who needs NSA.

If I get public benefits for my children and myself, will welfare tell my husband where I am?

No.  DSHS usually asks for information about the fathers of children who apply for assistance so they can make sure the fathers pay child support for their children.  This can mean that your children get more money than DSHS will provide. 

If you are afraid your child's father may try to find you and hurt you, tell DSHS it should not collect child support for this reason.  If your husband has been violent or threatened violence in the past, ask DSHS to keep your address confidential.

My children and I do not have our green cards (lawful permanent residence) yet.  Will getting assistance make it hard for us to get our green cards later?

No.  People who get their status through a self-petition or a grant of cancellation or suspension under the VAWA are not subject to the "public charge" ground of inadmissibility.  You can get your green card even if you have gotten public benefits.  The same is true for people who have U visas. 

Our publication Public Charge: When is it Safe for Immigrants to Use Public Benefits? has more information on public charge.

My abusive husband petitioned for me. He filled out an affidavit of support saying he will support my children and me.  Can DSHS deny me assistance?

No. DSHS should not make you provide information about your sponsor's income and resources if you are a victim of domestic violence and your need for assistance is related to the domestic violence. DSHS may try to recover the assistance from your sponsor. They cannot deny you help because he will not pay.

What if I need help getting public assistance for my children or myself?

If you have questions about your eligibility for public assistance or if DSHS has cut off or denied your benefits, get legal advice.  Public assistance rules are complicated.  DSHS workers sometimes make mistakes because they do not know immigration law. A lawyer or advocate can help make sure you and your family get the benefits you need to stay safe and healthy. You can:

Apply online with CLEAR*Onlinehttp://nwjustice.org/clear-online
or
Call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014

CLEAR is Washington's toll-free, statewide intake, advice and referral service for low-income people looking for free legal help with civil legal problems. 

  • Outside King County: Call 1-888-201-1014 weekdays from 9:10 a.m. until 12:25 p.m.  CLEAR works with a language line to provide free interpreters as needed.  If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-888-201-1014 using your preferred TTY or Video relay service.

  • King County: Call 211 for information and referral to a legal services provider Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. Or call (206) 461-3200, or the toll-free number1-877-211-WASH (9274). 211 works with a language line to provide free interpreters as needed. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-800-833-6384 or 711. You get a free relay operator. They will then connect you with 211. You may also find information on King County legal service providers on 211's website: www.resourcehouse.com/win211/.

  • If you are age 60 or Over: Call CLEAR*Sr. at 1-888-387-7111, regardless of your income.

If you have a different immigration status, please read one of these publications: 


7924EN

This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities.  It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.  This information is current as of December 2013.

© 2013 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)

Last Review and Update: Dec 18, 2013
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