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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Legal protections available

The documents included in this section provide information about legal provisions, mainly immigration provisions in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), immigration laws, and international laws that offer protection and assistance to immigrant survivors of domestic violence. Please note that some of the documents in this section may become dated over time because laws and regulations tend to change. For current resources, please consult the expert organizations listed at the end of this collection.

"In the U.S., victims of crime, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status, can access help from law enforcement or the courts, as well as help provided by government or non-governmental agencies, which may include counseling, interpreters, safety planning, emergency housing and possibly monetary assistance" (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).

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Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013) is federal legislation that includes special protections that enable immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking to seek immigration relief. Immigrant survivors who have been able to access these protections may also be eligible for some forms of public assistance.

"While these immigration remedies can provide a critical pathway to safety for many immigrant survivors, the reality is that most immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking are unable to learn about their rights and access these protections unless they are able to obtain the assistance of a trained advocate, as well as additional supportive services that are trauma-informed and linguistically accessible. Therefore, domestic violence and sexual assault service providers play a critical role in providing a life-changing bridge to safety and well-being for immigrant survivors and their children" (Hidalgo, 2017).

U visa
The U visa was created by Congress during the reauthorization of VAWA in 2000. It is an immigration remedy that can be sought by victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence and sexual assault, who are currently assisting, previously assisted, or are willing to assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of a designated crime. It provides a non-immigrant visa for qualified victims to reside in the United States for four years and the opportunity to apply for Legal Permanent Residency after three years as a U visa holder.

VAWA Confidentiality
Abusers often attempt to exert power and control over immigrant victims by trying to undermine the victims' ability to seek VAWA immigration protections, or by trying to trigger immigration enforcement actions against the victim, or track them using the immigration system. In response, Congress created federal VAWA confidentiality laws in order to provide protections for immigrant survivors submitting an application for a VAWA self-petition, U visa, or T visa. Federal VAWA confidentiality was designed to protect against disclosure of information about these cases to an abuser or to an unauthorized third party, and to prevent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from relying solely on information provided by the perpetrator or their family members. It also limits DHS enforcement activities against immigrant survivors at certain protected locations.
International Laws