How the “U Visa” Can Help Protect Victims of Crimes
Immigrants who are victims of serious crimes in the United States need no longer fear deportation when reporting serious crimes, even if their stay in the U.S. is illegal. To encourage the cooperation of immigrants in the investigation and prosecution of crimes serious in nature, congress created the U Visa. Because immigration laws are complicated and always changing, when applying for the U Visa, the immigrant should contact an immigration attorney to seek protection under the U Visa. If granted, the U Visa can help protect immigrant victims of crimes be giving legal status to reside and work in the U.S. and place them on a path to permanent residency.
The U Visa was created as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act in October of 2000. Among other things, this act provided protection to immigrants who were victims of human trafficking, extreme violence, and/or sexual crimes. Seven years later, the act became affective when the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) published their final Regulations on U Visas. These Regulations provide that immigrants who are the victims of serious crimes who have cooperated with authorities in the prosecution of the perpetrator, will be given a U Visa, which gives the immigrant victim legal status to reside and work in the United States.
General Requirements to obtain a U Visa
The U Visa generally applies to immigrants, both documented and undocumented, who are victims of serious crimes, who have cooperated with authorities in the prosecution of the the perpetrator. The purpose of the U Visa is to encourage foreign nationals who are victims of certain serious crimes to work with the law enforcement authorities, the help with prosecution. The general requirements are:
- The foreign national must have substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the serious crime;
- The criminal activity violated U.S. law and occurred in the U.S.;
- Law enforcement must certify that the foreign national has helped or will help with the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
The Foreign National must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the serious crime.
The victim must show he/she suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from the crime. The U Visa is not available to any victim of any crime. The foreign national must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of a serious crime. The crimes include, but are not limited to:
- Abduction, incest, rape
- Abusive sexual contact, involuntary servitude, sexual assault
- Blackmail, kidnapping, sexual exploitation
- Domestic violence, manslaughter, slave trade
- Extortion, murder, torture
- False imprisonment, obstruction of justice, trafficking
- Felonious assault, peonage, unlawful criminal restraint
- Hostage, prostitution, attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the above crimes.
The criminal activity must have violated U.S. law and occurred in the U.S.
The criminal activity must have violated U.S. law and occurred in the U.S. The victim may still qualify for the U Visa even if they are currently outside of the U.S., as long as the crime occurred while the victim was in the United States. In such a scenario, the immigrant and/or family members may file for the U Visa with the U.S. embassy or Consulate in the Immigrant’s country. A U Visa can even be applied for if the foreign national has a deportation order.
The Foreign National must have useful information concerning the investigation and prosecution of the crime, and must have helped or is likely to help with such investigation or prosecution.
The immigrant must have useful information concerning the crime, and must have helped, or must be likely to help in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. To ensure this, before granting the U Visa, a law enforcement agency must certify that the foreign national has been the victim of one of the qualifying crimes and has cooperated, is cooperating, or will cooperate with the investigation or prosecution of the crime. The certification can come from most agencies that take part in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. An immigration attorney can assist the foreign national in obtaining everything they need for this requirement.
Effects of the U Visa
If granted a U Visa, the victim is entitled to remain in the U.S. for up to four years and may even bring family members into the United States. They also receive automatic work authorization and even have potential to gain permanent residency. Further, the legal status granted by the U Visa extends to spouses of victims, children of victims, parents of victims who are children, and to siblings (of minor age) of victims who are children. If the victim is under 16 years old, the parent, guardian or next friend who has information about the criminal activity can apply. Naturally, in such a scenario, the victim will also be granted the U Visa.
There is no fee or application charge for applications for a U Visa. There are fees for other things in the process like, fingerprints and other related forms. However, these fees can be waived. Because immigration laws are complicated, the foreign national is encouraged to consult with an Arizona Immigration Attorney before applying. An experienced immigration attorney can get the law enforcement to fill out the appropriate U Visa certification, can help the foreign national apply for fee waivers, and can help with any other issues that may be present.
Written By Brent Gunderson
1930 N. Arboleda, Suite 201
Mesa, Arizona 85213
40 N. Central Avenue, Suite 1400-1532
Phoenix, AZ 85004
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