Visas Available for Crime Victims
Immigration law in the U.S. provides protection to victims of domestic abuse, crimes of violence, human trafficking, and several other crimes listed under immigration law or similar activity. The government may issue visas for crime victims who have knowledge of a crime and are willing to assist in the criminal investigation of that crime. Successful applicants may have to prove they suffered mental or physical harm because of the crime committed against them; in other cases, they may have to establish the extreme hardship they will face if removed to their home country.
There are several options available that we can aid you in obtaining:
The U visa is one avenue for undocumented victims of crimes to apply for a nonimmigrant (temporary) U visa status. In some instances, a qualifying relative of a U.S. citizen or undocumented relative may be the one offering cooperation and deriving benefits as well.
If the applicant entered the U.S. illegally, the U visa petition can be filed alongside a petition to waive unlawful entry.
Principal applicants can also include their spouse and/or children on their petition to derive benefits themselves if they establish the familial relationship existed as required by law. In a limited number of cases, siblings may be included in certain cases.
After maintaining their U status for at least three years, the applicant can apply for permanent residency status. Under the U visa, individuals can live and work lawfully in the U.S. for up four years.
To qualify for the U visa you must:
- Have been a victim of a crime
- Must be able to show that you have suffered a physical or mental hardship as a result
- Have helped during the investigation and/or the prosecution of the crime committed against you
- A designated police officer, judge, prosecutor, or other government representative associated with your criminal case, must sign a U visa certification form – verifying the above elements are met.
T Non-Immigrant Visa
Specifically designed for victims of human trafficking, the T visa is available to any foreign national who was forced into labor or sex work while in the U.S. Once approved, the individual may remain temporarily in the United States and be eligible to work while they are here.
To qualify for the T visa you must:
- Have been a victim of human trafficking
- Be in the United States
- Assist in the investigation
- Show that you would face extreme hardship if removed from the U.S.
Human trafficking typically begins in another country with a promise of a job or a better life in the U.S. but quickly goes sour once brought into the U.S. – and in many cases, this is done illegally. As a result, applications for the T visa are commonly filed alongside a petition to waive unlawful entry. Applicants may also include immediate family members on their petition. The T visa is valid for only three years, following which, the visa holder becomes eligible to apply for permanent residency status.
S Non-Immigrant Visa
The S visa is a temporary visa granted to witnesses of a crime and informants (and their spouse and/or children), so long as they assist in the investigation. The visa can be granted to those outside of the U.S. wishing to come here, or who are already in the U.S. and have pertinent information about criminal activity (including crimes that have not been committed yet). The visa is valid for as long as the individual is needed for the investigation or subsequent trial. Upon completion of their service to law enforcement, the individual is eligible to apply for permanent residency status.
For individuals who wish to seek permanent residency status after successfully holding an S visa, it is important to note that the law enforcement agency will have to file a petition on your behalf before you can submit your application.
If you are married to (or have recently divorced from) an abusive legal permanent resident or a United States citizen, then you may qualify to self-petition for permanent residency status under VAWA, or the Violence Against Women Act. The permanent residency status can be granted without the aid from or knowledge of the abusive spouse.
If, however, the abusive spouse is not a U.S. citizen or does not have permanent residency status, or the abuser and the victim are not legally married, then the victim of the abuse will not be eligible for permanent residency status under VAWA; however, they may be eligible for a U visa instead.