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3 things to know about U-visas

Sometimes, victims of crimes do not come forward or refuse to cooperate with the authorities out of fear. This occurs particularly often in the area’s immigrant communities.

Programs such as U nonimmigrant status, however, seek to safeguard those willing and able to speak up about criminal activity.

Eligibility guidelines

To apply for and receive a U-visa, people must meet certain criteria. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the eligibility guidelines for this form of legal immigration status include falling victim to a qualifying crime, having information about the alleged criminal activity, and suffering mental or physical abuse due to their status as a victim of the criminal activity. Additionally, those seeking U-visas must have already cooperated or plan to work with law enforcement in the future.

Criminal activities

The U-visa program applies to the victims of certain criminal activity. This includes attempts, conspiracies, solicitations and commission of offenses such as the following:

  • Abduction, kidnapping, false imprisonment, involuntary servitude and slave trade
  • Domestic violence, abusive sexual contact and female genital mutilation
  • Torture, felonious assault, manslaughter and murder
  • Rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation and prostitution
  • Extortion, obstruction of justice, perjury and witness tampering

The criminal activities that may qualify victims for U-visas must have happened in the U.S. or in violation of U.S. law.

Effects of approval

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, obtaining a U-visa will have several effects on recipients. Approval for this status grants qualifying victims and family members temporary immigration status. With this, they also receive work authorization. Under some circumstances, those who receive U-visas may eventually obtain lawful permanent residency.

The idea of speaking up often as the victim of criminal activity often seems daunting and filled with potential risks. Those who have suffered due to such offenses, however, may consider options such as obtaining U-visas to protect themselves and to help protect others possibly.