Often when undocumented immigrants are the victims of criminal activity, they are hesitant to report the crime for fear of facing deportation. Since 2007, victims of certain serious crimes in the United States have been able to apply for a U Visa or an I-360 petition, which will allow them to stay and work in the United States temporarily. If you or a loved one are afraid of reporting a crime because of your citizenship status would be well advised to obtain more information about their legal options by contacting Austin immigration attorneys Peek Toland & Castañeda PLLC.
The Purpose of U Visas
A U Visa provides an opportunity for victims of certain crimes to report the incident without fear of an investigation into their own activities. This level of protection was not available a few years ago when it was more common for crimes to go unreported and for criminals to avoid prosecution and punishment.
Crimes Covered by U Visas
Only victims of certain criminal acts may potentially receive a U Visa. Some of the crimes covered by U Visas include abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, felonious assault, incest, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, torture, trafficking and unlawful criminal restraint.
It is important for all victims of serious crimes to research their options for legal protection by consulting with a knowledgeable and compassionate immigration lawyer.
Helping Law Enforcement
Being the victim of a serious crime is not the only requirement for obtaining a U Visa. Undocumented immigrants who would like a U Visa must:
- Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime
- Have useful information regarding the crime
- Provide aid during the investigation or prosecution of the crime
- Have been the victim of a crime within the United States
The Application Process
It is often necessary for victims of serious crimes in Austin to receive legal guidance. Even the application process can prove complicated. For example, immigrants who wish to obtain temporary citizenship will first have to file a petition for non-immigrant status. They will have to work directly with a federal, state or city law enforcement agency or a prosecutor, judge or other authority responsible for handling the crime.
Unfortunately, immigration officials may only grant 10,000 U Visas in any given fiscal year. That means that they have to decline U Visa applications if they have already granted 10,000 between October 1 and September 30.
Those who are not granted a U Visa may have to join the waiting list that will be considered in the next fiscal year. The limit of 10,000, however, does not apply to spouses, parents, children and unmarried siblings of the applicant. It is important, however, that the limited number of available U Visas does not deter victims of serious crimes. When crimes go unreported, more people could become victims.
Applications submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must include specific documentation, including a letter certified by local, state or federal law enforcement, photos, medical records, personal testimony and other evidence. The process, as with most immigration proceedings, can be tedious. Sometimes, applicants wait up to a year to get their U Visas. An experienced Austin immigration attorney can make sure that the application is properly filed and that the process is moving along efficiently.
Contact Peek Toland & Castañeda PLLC to learn more about your legal rights and options for protecting yourself and others who may suffer injury or worse due to criminal activity. Help is available by calling (512) 474-4445 or filling out an online contact form.