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Visa for Crime Victims
North Carolina Immigration Lawyers
There are a limited number of visas for victims – and their immediate family members – of specific crimes, who have subsequently suffered from some form of mental, emotional, or physical abuse, and who are deemed potentially useful to investigators, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies in regards to the same crime that victimized them.
Congress recognized that without some form of immigration status that protects immigrant victims from retaliation, few undocumented victims would be willing to assist in the judicial system – either criminal or civil. Through part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) legislation that was recently re-authorized, Congress provided a specific avenue for immigrant victims to obtain temporary status (the U Visa) to alleviate these fears felt by many undocumented immigrants.
This visa was created to bring the police and the undocumented community together to fight against crime. Just because you were a victim of a crime, does not entitle you to a visa. Obtaining a U Visa is not automatic. It is a complicated process with many steps.
Not all crimes qualify. To qualify, it must be a violent crime such as an assault with a deadly weapon or domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, blackmail or extortion, or kidnapping. If you were a victim of a crime, you need to check with a qualified immigration attorney to see if you were a victim of a qualifying crime.
In order to apply for the visa, the undocumented immigrant should cooperate with investigators and/or prosecutor because they must certify that you were helpful in their investigation or prosecution of the crime for which you were a victim.
You often must request certification that you cooperated with the police force within five years of the crime. In Charlotte, for example, they will only accept certification requests for crimes that occurred up to five years ago.
If a government authority certifies your case and you can prove that you have suffered mental and physical harm, then you can apply for a U Visa. There are waivers available to the applicants that have entered the US without a visa or those that have other immigration violations. There are 10,000 visas available every year. If they run out of visas but you are deemed to have qualified for the U Visa, then you should be able to receive deferred action and obtain a work permit while waiting for the visas to become available.
Once you receive the visa, the person must remain in the United States for at least 3 years in U Visa status and remain available to help the government with any follow up matters involving the crime. Once three years have passed, the U Visa holder can apply for their green card, in other words, become lawful permanent residents.
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