The U Visa: Legal Status for Victims of Violent Crimes

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Being the victim of a violent or sexual act can often be very traumatizing.  With the harmful effects that these crimes can have on their victims in mind, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) in the year 2000. 

The VTVPA is relevant to immigration law because within its contents, the U Visa was created.  The U Visa allows victims of certain crimes, mostly violent or sexual in nature, to secure legal status in the U.S.  New regulations clarifying the VTVPA have made it possible for U Visa holders to apply for a green card once their U Visa is granted.  Unlike most other types of visas, illegal entrants are also eligible to receive the benefits of a U Visa provided that they meet the necessary requirements.

There are four requirements that must be met in order for an individual to receive a U Visa, which are provided below: 

1.  The applicant must show that they have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of criminal activity;

2.  The applicant must possess knowledge concerning the criminal activity that they were the victim of;

3.  The applicant must have been helpful or is willing to be helpful to law enforcement officials in their investigation of the criminal activity;

4.  The criminal act committed against the applicant must have occurred within U.S. territory.

The two elements that must be clearly documented are suffering of physical/mental abuse and willingness to help law enforcement.  Physical/mental suffering is generally proven by submitting medical records to document injuries or mental health issues related to the violent or sexual act.  Helpfulness to law enforcement officials is proven by submitting police documentation of the victim's communication with law enforcement, and in some cases, affidavits submitted by the officer(s) assigned to work on the victim's case. 

An interim final rule, passed on December 8, 2008, has now made it possible for U Visa holders to apply for a green card solely on the basis of their U Visa.  Prior to the interim final rule's passage, Congress had demonstrated an intent to allow U Visa holders to apply for green cards.  However, because the Department of Homeland Security had not drafted specific regulations describing how a U Visa holder may apply for a green card, the intent of Congress to allow U Visa holders to apply for green cards had not been fulfilled.  The December 2008 interim final rule has provided that all U Visa holders that have resided continuously in the U.S. for 3 years prior to filing their I-485 adjustment application are eligible to receive a green card

For more information on securing a green card, or for general immigration information, please consult this website.  




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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan Portner published on June 1, 2009 3:11 PM.

Conditional Residence and Marital Problems was the previous entry in this blog.

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