Visa Options for Victims of Crimes: VAWA, U visa and T visa

The Law Office of Rose H. Robbins [Tel: (954) 946-8130)] has helped persons to petition USCIS for visas and/or green cards even though they were not in lawful status when they had become victims of certain crimes . Many individuals who are undocumented are fearful of admitting that they have been a victim of a crime in part because they believe they will be removed (deported) from the United States if they report the crime.  However, U.S. law does provide several protections for both legal and undocumented persons present in the US who have been the victims of a crime.  There are three specific petitions for relief for victims of domestic violence, victims of certain crimes, and victims of human trafficking.

1.) VAWA Self-Petitioners

Some may be afraid to report acts of domestic violence to the police or to seek other forms of assistance because of both psychological factors and a fear of deportation. Such fears cause them to remain in abusive relationships and continue to suffer.

Victims of domestic violence who are the child, parent, or current/former spouse of a United States citizen or a permanent resident (green card holder) and are abused by the citizen or permanent resident may be eligible to apply for a green card themselves without needing the abuser to file for immigration benefits on their behalf. This provision of the law was created under the VAWA.

To qualify for VAWA benefits the victims must establish that they:

  • Have or had a “qualifying relationship” with the abuser spouse, or, are the parent or child of the abuser,
  • Reside or have resided with the abuser,
  • Have good moral character, and
  • Have been victims of battery or extreme cruelty.

VAWA provisions apply equally to men and women.

2.) U Nonimmigrant Visa (for victims of certain crimes)

U nonimmigrant status (or U visa) offers immigration protection for victims and is also a tool to help law enforcement obtain the evidence they need to prosecute the criminal.  To obtain U status, the victim must obtain a certification from law enforcement. However, the provision of such certification by law enforcement officials  does not grant the U status—only the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has the authority to grant or deny this benefit.

Although victims are not required to be in legal immigration status, they must meet the following legal tests:

  • Be a victim of qualifying criminal activity and have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime,
  • Possess credible and reliable information about the qualifying criminal activity,
  • Be, have been, or are likely to be helpful to the investigation and/or prosecution of that qualifying criminal activity, and
  • Be a victim of criminal activity that violated a U.S. law.

The victims of the following crimes may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa:

  • Abduction
  • Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Blackmail
  • Domestic Violence
  • Extortion
  • False Imprisonment
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Perjury
  • Felonious Assault
  • Hostage Taken
  • Incest
  • Peonage
  • Involuntary Servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Witness Tampering
  • Prostitution
  • Sexual Assault
  • Slave Trade
  • Torture
  • Trafficking
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Unlawful Criminal Restraint
  • Other Related Crimes

Importantly, qualifying family members may also be eligible to apply for benefits.

3.) T Nonimmigrant Status – the T Visa

Trafficking in persons—also known as “human trafficking”—is a considered to be a form of modern-day slavery. Traffickers prey on many types of vulnerable and naive people, often including individuals who are poor, unemployed, underemployed, or who lack the safety and protection of strong social networks. Victims are often lured under the false pretenses of good jobs and better lives, and then forced to work under brutal and inhumane conditions.  Human trafficking does happens in the United States where the predators can earn substantial amounts of money by pandering their victims to Americans who choose to “look the other way.”

The T nonimmigrant status (or T visa) provides immigration protection to victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons who assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases.

Victims are not required to be in legal immigration status, but they must:

  • Be a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons,
  • Be physically present in the United States on account of the trafficking,
  • Comply with any reasonable requests for assistance in the investigation or prosecution (or be under the age of 18), and
  • Suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if removed from the United States.

Again, qualifying family members may also be eligible to apply for benefits.

Many undocumented persons are fearful of admitting that they have been a victim of the crime of human trafficking in part because they believe they will be removed (deported) from the United States if they report the crime.

U.S. law provides several protections for legal and undocumented immigrants who have been victims of a trafficking crime.

All agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, including USCIS, are legally prohibited from disclosing that a victim has applied for VAWA, T, or U immigration benefits and they go to great length to protect the privacy of such individuals. Many safeguards are in place to protect the privacy and security of the victim.

You may click here to see a complete list of the legal immigration services of the Law Office of Rose H. Robbins or call (954) 946-8130.