According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statics, nearly 3 of 10 women and 1 in 10 men are victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence does not always include a physical act, but is also found in the form of physical abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, sexual abuse, stalking and cyber stalking, financial abuse, and threats. Immigrants may often be afraid to report acts of domestic violence to the police or to seek other forms of assistance because many may speak little-to-no English, are often separated from family and friends, and may not understand the laws of the United States. Such fear causes many immigrants to remain in abusive relationships.
In October 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which authorized a “U” visa for victims of serious crimes. Consequentially, the law allows victims of serious crimes to remain in the United States temporarily, giving them the opportunity to apply for a permanent residency (green card) and remain in the United States as a permanent resident after three years.
U Visas are set aside for victims of crimes and their immediate families who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of a crime, and they allow victims to remain in the United States for up to four years to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation and prosecution of the criminal activity. To qualify for a U Visa, a petitioner must meet the following requirements:
- The petitioner must have been victim of a “qualifying criminal activity”, which occurred in the United States or was a violation of United States law.
- In the course of the criminal activity, the petitioner must have suffered physical or mental abuse.
- The petitioner has useful information about the criminal activity.
- The petitioner will be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the crime’s perpetrator.
- The petitioner is admissible to the United States or is applying for a waiver using Form I-192.
“Qualifying criminal activity” includes violent crimes, enslavement crimes, sexual crimes, obstruction of justice, and fraud; the criminal activity need not have been completed at the time of the petition. However, simply having been a victim of one of these crimes is not sufficient to obtain a U Visa, so the applicant will have to prove that the abuse was “severe.” The petitioner must also attest that he or she was the victim of a qualifying criminal activity and that he or she will be helpful in bringing the perpetrator to justice. A petitioner who meets these requirements would be eligible to obtain a U Visa and may submit a petition either in the United States or abroad at a United States consulate.
Timing is an important factor in submitting a petition, so if you have been or are the victim of any criminal activity outlined above, you should begin the process as soon as possible. Please contact Amil Alkass at Lavelle Law, Ltd. to learn more about U Visas and determine whether submitting this petition is the right course of action for you or a loved one.