Every year, thousands of foreign individuals living in the United States suffer substantial mental and physical abuse at the hands of a U.S. perpetrator, oftentimes the victim’s own spouse or family member. At the turn of the 21st century, Congress, recognizing the scope and depth of the problem, implemented The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. Signed into law by President Clinton, the act was design to ensure “just and effective punishment of traffickers, and to protect their victims.” One key provision in the act concerns the U-Visa and how it works to provide shelter to those who have been abused and taken advantage of by international crime rings.
A U-Visa, or a Form I-918 – Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, provides foreign nationals who have been victimized on U.S. soil or by a U.S. citizen a means to enter the country legally and help bring the perpetrator to justice. Immigrants who wish to file for a U-Visa must provide the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with what amounts to a “certificate of helpfulness” in the apprehension of a wanted criminal. In other words, they must provide U.S. authorities with significant proof, evidence, or witness testimony of a crime that violated U.S. law. In addition, the crime must have had a severe impact on the individual’s overall health and well being. While this is obviously not the preferred method of immigrating to the United States, it provides victims with a potential safe haven.
If successfully applied, U-Visa holders are given legal status in this country for up to four years. Once that time expires, they are eligible to apply for permanent status, along with any family members that may be dependent upon them. This includes any children, parents, unmarried siblings under the age of 18, and spouse. If you have been the victim of a U.S. citizen or coerced into committing a crime, on U.S. soil, you have options. Contact dedicated immigration attorney Scott McVarish to discuss your rights and options in a confidential case consultation.