March 05, 2013
Ana Maria Echiburu Tyrrell
Most undocumented individuals living in the U.S. are less likely to contact law enforcement if they are a victim of a crime due to the fear of deportation. To minimize this fear and to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes, Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa in October 2000 through the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. Under the Act, if a victim of certain crimes meets specific requirements, such as cooperating with law enforcement, he or she may obtain legal status in the U.S. by applying for U nonimmigrant status.
To be eligible for U nonimmigrant status, an individual must meet the following criteria:
- The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity (see below);
- The individual must have credible and reliable information concerning that criminal activity;
- The individual must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful, in the investigation or prosecution of the crime; and
- The qualifying criminal activity occurred in the U.S., or in U.S. territories or possessions, or violated a U.S. federal law that provides for extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute the offense in a U.S. federal court.
Qualifying criminal activity includes the following crimes:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Abusive sexual contact
- Sexual exploitation
- Female genital mutilation
- Being held hostage
- Involuntary servitude
- Slave trade
- Unlawful criminal restraint
- False imprisonment
- Felonious assault
- Witness tampering
- Obstruction of justice
- Attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes
On February 28, 2013, the House of Representatives also passed a version of the Violence Against Women Act, which was previously approved by the Senate, that expands the list of qualifying criminal activity to include stalking.
U nonimmigrant status is available for up to 10,000 qualifying victims annually and to their dependents; the status lasts for four years. Additionally, a person in U nonimmigrant status may be eligible for permanent resident status, or a “green card,” after three years of continuous presence in the U.S.
If you have been a victim of a crime and would like to discuss your eligibility for U nonimmigrant status, please contact Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. to schedule a consultation.