Crime Victims Can Apply for a U-Visa
If you have been a victim of a crime, especially a violent crime, you usually face a fair amount of hardship, stress and trauma. Knowing this, immigration has a program for immigrants who are victims of crimes, and who are helping law enforcement in solving or prosecuting crimes.
The U-Visa Program
The program is called the U-visa, and victims of certain crimes can qualify for the visa. The criminal activity must have caused serious physical or mental abuse, and the immigrant applicant must have information about the crime that is helpful to law enforcement.
The program is intended to encourage immigrants to report crimes, instead of hiding them, which many are prone to do for fear that if they report them they could be deported. Many people who perpetrate crimes on immigrants will even threaten them with deportation or reporting them to immigration officials if the immigrants report the crimes against them. As a result, crimes against immigrants tended to be unreported. The U-Visa is designed to change that.
The U-Visa requires certification by a law enforcement official, including prosecutors and judges. Where there are multiple law enforcement agencies working on a case, any one of them can certify the visa application. The certification can be withdrawn or revoked, if the immigrant stops cooperating with law enforcement.
Benefits of the Program
The U Visa allows qualifying immigrants the chance to receive work permits, remain lawful for up to four years, and eventually gain residency in the united states as the visa allows for adjusting status to a lawful permanent resident. Temporary immigration status also extends to the family members of U-Visa recipients. The benefits of the U-Visa apply even if the perpetrator is caught and found not guilty.
Cities also benefit, as the immigrants help find criminals, and agree to act as witnesses in the cases against their abusers. Law enforcement also may find more willing witnesses, or receive beneficial tips, when immigrants are not afraid of being deported for communicating with them.
Immigrant workers may find themselves abused by employers, who may feel that they can do whatever they want, confident that the workers will be too afraid to report their criminal actions to authorities. The U-Visa allows immigrant workers to hold abusive employers responsible. Involuntary servitude is an offense on the U-Visa list, which discourages employers from compelling immigrants to work without pay.
Limitations on Number of Visas
Despite the program’s good intentions, Congress limits how many U-Visas can be given out. The current cap of 10,000 is far less than the number of applicants (believed to be about 250,000), leaving many immigrants with nowhere to turn, afraid to report the crimes perpetrated against them.
Get help with your immigration problem or case. Contact the Palm Beach County immigration attorneys at Devore Law Group to help you with your immigration questions.