New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

Victims of crimes without legal status in the US

Author: US visa lawyer Alena Shautsova

I am the victim of a crime, but I do not have a legal status in the US. Is there anything I can do?

This unfortunately is a question many people are afraid to ask, because of their immigration status or lack thereof. I am here to tell you that you do not have to be afraid, contact an attorney to make sure you do not incriminate yourself or place yourself in deportation proceedings, this mainly arises from not being able to explain yourself properly when making a report, or filing applications. Depending on the severity of the circumstances you may even be able to apply for a nonimmigrant U or T Visa. Another option available is to apply under VAWA (Violence against Women Act).

U Visa

The most common of these visas is the U Visa. You can apply for a U Visa if you have been the victim of a crime and you must provide assistance to law enforcement in reference to the qualifying crime. Some of the qualifying crimes include but are not limited to:

  • Abduction/Hostage/Kidnapping type situations, False Imprisonment
  • Abusive Sexual Contact, Rape, Sexual Assault, Sexual Exploitation, Forced Prostitution, Incest
  • Blackmail, Domestic Violence, Extortion
  • Obstruction of Justice, Perjury, Witness Tampering
  • Assault, Torture
  • Involuntary Servitude, Peonage, Slave Trade, Trafficking
  • Genital Female Mutilation

This visa may be applied for after obtaining a certification from a US Law Enforcement Agency such as your local Police Station that states you have been, currently are, or are likely to help in assisting the law enforcement agency in the prosecution of the criminal activity. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and the DOL (Department of Labor) and CPS (Child Protective Services) also qualify as a certifying agents as they have jurisdiction over criminal investigation in their particular areas.

Once petitioning for a U Visa, it is also possible to petition for family members. If the Petitioner is under 21 years old, they may petition for their spouse, children siblings (if sibling is under 18 and unmarried), or parents. If the petitioner is over 21 years old they may only petition for their spouse and children. However it is possible to obtain a Green Card after Three (3) years of continuous presence in the US for the petitioner, Afterwards when they are eligible and granted US Citizenship they can apply for their parents. It is up to the discretion of the Attorney working on your U Visa to determine whether or not it is best to apply for your family members with your U-1 Petition altogether or after yours has been approved as there are many factors to be taken into consideration.

Obtaining a Green Card through a U Visa

To obtain your Green Card through a U Visa, you must have:

  • Three (3) years of continuous presence in the US.
  • Complied with US Law Enforcement for reasonable requests related to the prosecution of the crime you were a victim of.
  • The Certifying Agency for your U Visa must show that your continued presence in the US is needed for a cohesive family and justifiable on humanitarian grounds, or otherwise are of national or public interest.

Family Members have different requirements for obtaining a Green Card through a U Visa dependent. They must not have ever been admitted to the US under U Visa Nonimmigrant Status and they must prove an extreme hardship, either to the U-1 Visa petitioner or themselves if they were not allowed to remain in the US. It is best if the family members apply at the same time the U-1 Petitioner does for their Green Card.

27 June 2014
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