Undocumented immigrants staying in the United States are exposed to exploitation and attacks from several avenues. Out of fear of deportation, they often end up as victims of heinous crimes that go unreported to security agencies and the police. Not just that, they are often exploited by employers who give them low wages and very harsh working conditions. However, Congress has encouraged victims to step forward and report crimes by providing protection from deportation under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000.
What kind of protection is offered you might ask? First and foremost, as long as you are in the United States, any victim has a right to report a crime to the police regardless of the person’s immigration status. With this offer of protection came the creation of a separate non-immigrant visa category for persons who suffered certain crimes and assist law enforcement in the prosecution and investigation of that crime. This is called the U non-immigrant visa. If you are a non-immigrant and certain crimes have befallen you in the U.S., upon reporting it to the police, you may become eligible for the U-visa.
There is a list of crimes that qualify for U-visa purposes. Some of them include assault and battery, domestic violence, and so on. The buck doesn’t stop at violent crimes alone, there are certain workplace violations that can qualify you for a U-visa if they are reported to the right agency. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, added two new crimes to the list for U-visa eligibility. They include fraud in foreign labor contract and stalking as well as any crime similar to both.
The U-visa can be applied for from both outside and inside the U.S. and there is no expiration date for when the crime may have been committed.
If your U visa application is approved, you are given a visa which enables you to stay, live, and work in the U.S. legally without any fear of deportation. After you’ve had the U-visa for three years, you can apply to become a permanent resident or a green card holder.
If you have been a victim of a crime or workplace violation as described above, reach out to our office to speak with an immigration lawyer about your options, including applying for a U visa. No only can we help you through the application process, we can also provide you legal support as you file your crime report with the authorities. Our office has a unique position to help immigrants who have been a victim of a crime as we provide legal services for immigration law and criminal defense.