As of 2000, foreign nationals who have suffered at the hands of criminal organizations and wish to immigrate to the United States have the option of applying for what is known as a U-Visa status. A U-Visa grants victims of domestic or criminal abuse, temporary residency and work status for up to four years. Additionally, visa holders may be able to apply for permanent residency once their U-Visa status expires.
However, U-Visas are not granted based on accusations or simply detailing criminal activity that the applicant may or may not have been a party to. As part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, those individuals wishing to immigrate under a U-Visa must provide authorities with proof, significant evidence, and serious investigative leads to back up their claims. These crimes could have been committed both on American soil – as is so often the case with sex trafficking – or abroad. Whatever the case, the goal is to remove innocent lives from the global cycle of violence, and bring down those who benefit from its existence.
Some types of evidence that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will consider, include:
- Where did the crime occur? In the United States or overseas?
- What type of crime was committed and how was the applicant victimized as a result?
- More often than not this includes torture, rape, sex trafficking, incest, sexual abuse, prostitution of any kind, sexual exploitation, and other forms of severe physical and emotional abuse.
- Can the individual applying for the U-Visa help authorities apprehend the guilty party? Often this is a key component to awarding the U-Visa.
- Applicants must also successfully submit a Form I-192.
Applicants who successfully secure a U-Visa may also petition to have their family members join them. This includes any children, parents, unmarried siblings under the age of 18 and spouse. If you or a loved one is considering applying for a U-Visa, it is highly recommended that you speak with the proper authorities first, as well as a dedicated immigration attorney. Call Peek & Toland today for more information.