But ever since the Board of Immigration Appeals issued their decision in Matter of A-R-C-G- et al., 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014), that has changed. In A-R-C-G, the Board held that "married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” is a particular social group for purposes of obtaining asylum and withholding of removal. This is a binding, precedential decision, which means that lower courts are required to follow its holding.
Whether any individual applicant can put this case to advantage depends on many factors. The court must look at the applicant's specific society to determine whether that society sees "women who are unable to leave their relationship" as a distinct social group or not. The applicant will also have to prove that she does fit within that definition and suffered or has a well-founded fear of suffering harm that rises to the level of persecution because of her inability to leave her relationship. Among other things, she will also have to prove that her government is unwilling or unable to assist her, and that she cannot reasonably solve the problem by relocating within her country.
In a recent unpublished decision, the Board went even further and held that it was not necessary for a woman to married to her abuser for her to avail herself of this theory. See Matter of H-R-M-, AXXX XXX 381 (BIA March 14, 2016).
Domestic violence asylum claims remain difficult to win, but there is a legitimate chance of winning with the help of experienced legal counsel.