At one time, undocumented foreign-born victims of crime and domestic violence in the United States had an impossible choice: endure their situation in silence or seek help from the police and risk deportation. That changed when Republican Senator Spencer Abraham and late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy designed the U-visa to encourage immigrants to report criminal activity to law enforcement. It became law in 2000 as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and continues to be seen as a lifeline for immigrants who are victims of repeated violence, especially in the home or workplace. What Does the U-Visa Cover? The U-visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa available to applicants who are victims of certain crimes. It protects individuals who have suffered significant physical and/or mental abuse due to rape, torture, trafficking, abduction, domestic violence, and other violent offenses. (You can find a total list of applicable crimes here on the USCIS website. How to Apply for a U-Visa You must obtain a law enforcement certification before filing a petition for U nonimmigrant status. This certification may come from a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency or other authority tasked with the investigation or prosecution of the crime. This includes judges and prosecution. Other agencies authorized to issue a certification include:
- The Department of Labor
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Child Protective Services
One condition of receiving the visa is that you cooperate with government officials and law enforcement in the investigation of the crime and prosecution of the accused criminal(s). You must also be admissible to the United States, although you may be able to apply for a waiver in the event that authorities deem you inadmissible. What If You Have a Deportation Order? You can still apply for a U-visa even if you have a deportation order. Once the application is approved, your attorney will have to file a motion to reopen the order. If it has not come through yet, your attorney can file a stay. Once issued, a U-visa allows you to live and work in the United States. It is a temporary visa, generally lasting for four years, and can be adjusted to legal permanent residency if you lived continually in the U.S. after receiving the visa and followed through on your agreement to assist law enforcement. What About Family Members? Many victims of crime are worried about being separated from their loved ones. The good news is that family members such as minor children, spouses, parents, and unmarried siblings under 18 can be included in the petition. Contact Us USCIS can only issue 10,000 U-visas per year, so it is essential that you discuss your situation with an immigration attorney as soon as possible. At Landerholm Immigration, we firmly believe in supporting and protecting those undocumented immigrants who have also been victimized by crime. Let us help you apply for a U-visa so that you both receive justice and enjoy a better future. To schedule a confidential consultation, please call our Oakland office at (510) 756-4468 .