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Violence Against Women Act protects immigrant families in U.S.

Women and children who immigrate to the United States are often left without access to the same resources as natural born citizens. This scenario is especially true when faced with legal and domestic issues that could threaten a family's safety. However, you should not be afraid to speak up if you are in a difficult situation at home.

The law protects immigrant women and children who are victims of domestic violence through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, VAWA allows victims of violent crimes to seek justice without fearing retribution from the law themselves.

Here are five frequently asked questions and answers about the VAWA.

1. Who is protected?

VAWA programs provide protections for victims of rape, community violence or eviction due to domestic violence or stalking. The title of the law implies that only women and children are protected, but the law is gender-neutral in its application. Women, children and parents who are victims of abuse may be eligible for protection under the law.

Actions in good faith and a clean legal record are often required to be eligible for VAWA protections as an immigrant.

2. How am I protected as an immigrant?

Persons covered under VAWA immigration provisions must seek help against a perpetrator who is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident spouse or loved one. Persons seeking citizen status may file for I-360 Battered Spouse, Children & Parents status.

3. For how long am I protected?

Persons who file for I-360 status will have 150 days to present themselves to government agencies for VAWA protections. If you are granted permanent resident status, you will have all the rights and privileges of a U.S. citizen until you give them up.

4. Do I have to file a police report?

No, persons seeking VAWA protection do not need a police report. Instead, you may make a "face value" claim to a lawyer who can start the petition process for you.

5. How can an attorney help me?

An attorney can be your first line of defense against an abusive spouse. Upon consultation, an attorney can determine the standing of your case and help you gain immediate access to resources to protect yourself and loved ones.

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