WHat is a U-visa
A U-Visa is a type of status for which victims of certain crimes can apply. The U-Visa category was created in October of 2000 with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (along with the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act). Prior to the Act, victimized immigrants had little incentive to report crimes and assist law enforcement in the potential prosecution of that crime out of fear of being apprehended and removed or facing other dire consequences. The U-Visa, therefore, is meant to protect victims of crime and to incentivize cooperation with law enforcement, ultimately increasing community trust and safety.
How am I eligible to apply for a U-visa?
There are many requirements to apply for a U-Visa:
- You are the victim of a specific kind of crime;
- You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of that crime;
- You have information about the criminal activity;
- You were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime and can obtain a Form I-918, Supplement B Certification;
- The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws;
- You are admissible to the United States (though waivers are available).
What do I get if my U-Visa is approved?
First, understand that obtaining an actual U-Visa can take many years. Fortunately, after waiting a certain amount of time, applicants can qualify and apply for a work permit using Form I-765. That work permit is temporary and must be renewed every so often.
After obtaining the actual U-Visa (which lasts for 4 years), maintaining that status for at least 3 years, and meeting other requirements, you can actually apply to adjust your status to that of a Permanent Resident. In other words, you can apply for your green card!
What Kind of Crime counts?
*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.
†Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.
Something that seems like a simple question can actually require serious legal research and analysis. For example, what if you were a victim of “Robbery?” Did you notice that Robbery is not on the list? That may count as “Felonious Assault,” but much of that will depend on where the crime was prosecuted, federal and state case law, and other factors.
WHat is a T-visa?
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act also created the “T” visa status. Unlike the U-Visa, which can apply to a broader range of crimes, this status was specifically intended for victims of human trafficking.
What is human trafficking?
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations define human trafficking as:
a) Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
b) The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. (22 U.S.C. § 7102(9)).
To put it more simply, a person is a victim of human trafficking if they are a victim of trafficking for the purpose of performing work or service, including commercial sex acts. Trafficking requires undermining a person’s will by some type of physical or non-physical force, etc…
What makes me eligible to apply?
The T-Visa has some similar requirements to the U-Visa, including the following:
- You are or were a victim of trafficking, as defined by law (see the previous column for starters);
- You are physically in the United States, a port of entry, or another U.S. territory because of trafficking;
- You reasonably cooperate with law enforcement to assist them in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking (some exceptions exist if you are underage or suffered from trauma)
- You show that you would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if you were removed from the United States
- You are admissible to the United States (there are waivers available here too)
Do need a certification from law enforcement like with a U-visa? i
Not necessarily, but it is strongly recommended. That requires the completion of Form I-914, Supplement B, Declaration of Law Enforcement Officer for Victim of Trafficking in Persons, which serves as strong proof of requirements 1 and 3 (victim and cooperation).