When illegal immigrants are victims of certain crimes in the United States they are afraid to come forward to report their experience for fear that they will face deportation. Often this means law enforcement does not have the needed information to arrest the perpetrators. Fortunately, this does not have to be the case. If you have been a victim of certain types of crimes or hold key information that will help law enforcement, you may qualify for a U visa. Understanding what a U visa is, and how to obtain one, may help you feel more confident in reporting a crime.
What Is a U Visa?
A U visa was created by the passing of the "Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act" on October 28, 2000. This visa is available when victims of certain crimes cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the reported crimes. While law enforcement agencies include the police, it also includes federal agents and court personnel.
A U visa was designed as an incentive for victims of these crimes, and those who have knowledge of certain crimes, to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement personnel. It is designed to remove the fear of immigration penalties or deportation that may be present due to the victim's or witnesses' undocumented status.
What Are the Benefits of a U Visa?
If you qualify and are approved for a U visa, you will be granted the ability to remain in the United States for up to four years legally. Following the first three years of this four-year period, you may even be eligible to apply for a green card or your legal permanent resident card. You will also be able to legally work in the country.
In addition to you qualifying and being approved for your U visa, certain members of your household may also be approved to become derivative U visa recipients. These people include your:
- Parents if you are under the age of 21
- Unmarried siblings under the age of 18 if you are under the age of 21
- Unmarried children under the age of 21
A separate petition for qualifying family members will be required to be submitted once your visa is approved.
Who Qualifies for the U Visa?
Not every person who is a victim of a crime will qualify for a U visa. These visas are designed to be issued for certain classes of crimes. Some of these include:
- Sex crimes, including sex trafficking, rape, incest, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, prostitution, and genital mutilation
- Enslavement crimes, including abduction, kidnapping, forced labor, slavery, and false imprisonment
- Violent crimes, including vehicular homicide, manslaughter, murder, assault and battery with a deadly weapon, robbery, and more
- Obstruction of justice, including perjury, witness tampering, and tampering with evidence
- Foreign labor fraud, which means someone in the U.S. has hired a non-citizen under false employment practices
If you've been affected by one of these crimes and you're willing to cooperate as a witness in the prosecution of the criminal, this could be enough to qualify you for a visa.
Getting a U visa is not as simple as walking into your local police department and reporting a crime. There are certain things you will have to be able to prove to get the law enforcement agency to issue you a certificate of helpfulness which is the first step in obtaining this important document.
A family immigration attorney will be able to provide you with more information about additional documentation you may need. This documentation will help to prove you have experienced severe suffering as the result of the actions of another. Call today to make an appointment.