U.S. Immigration law is vast and complex. Many times, immigrants are not aware of what relief they may be eligible for.
Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants are particularly vulnerable as victims of crimes. Too often, when an undocumented person is a victim of a crime, they do not reach out to the police for help because they fear it may result in problems with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”)
Acknowledging this danger of crimes going unreported, the U.S. Government created a special exception that gives certain victims of crimes a path to obtain legal immigration status in the United States. One of these special exceptions is called the U-Visa.
If an undocumented immigrant is granted a U-Visa, they may even be eligible for permanent residence (i.e. green card) within several years.
Generally, to be eligible for a U-Visa, a person must have been a victim of one or more or any similar activity in violation of federal, state, or local criminal law.
5. Domestic violence;
6. Sexual assault;
7. Abusive sexual Contact;
9. Sexual exploitation;
10. Female genital mutilation;
11. Being held hostage;
13. Involuntary Servitude;
14. Slave trade;
17. Unlawful criminal restraint;
18. False imprisonment;
23. Felonious assault;
24. Witness tampering;
25. Obstruction of justice;
26. Perjury; or
27. Attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above.
Further, the immigrant must show that they have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of the qualifying criminal activity.
The above is not an exhaustive list of what crime qualifies for U-Visa relief. Rather, it is suggestive of the type of crimes that will generally suffice.
If an immigrant was a victim of a qualifying crime, he/she must then request the federal, state, or local officials to certify that he/she was or is likely to be helpful to the official in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal act that he/she was a victim of.
For example, if an immigrant was the victim of attempted murder in Manhattan, the immigrant must ask and obtain from the district attorney of Manhattan a certification that they were, in effect, cooperative in the investigation and/or prosecution of the perpetrator of attempted murder.
If an immigrant obtains a certification from the proper authorities, he/she may then file an application with the United States Government to obtain U-Visa status.
The above should not be relied upon as legal advice; it is merely a basic explanation of the U-Visa processs.
If you believe you may be eligible for a U-Visa, it is strongly recommended that you seek legal advice prior to applying. If your application for a U-Visa is denied, you risk deportation.