NEWSLETTER – November 2017
Written By Attorney Sergio A. Perez of the Franco Law Group, APLC.
The U Visa – A Path to Residency for Some Crime Victims and Their Families.
For many undocumented immigrants in the U.S., living in the shadows entails living with a fear of the police due to the possibility that a law enforcement officer may refer an immigrant to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Indeed, fear of law enforcement authorities all too often results in immigrants being victimized by criminals who go unpunished because their crimes are not reported.
In 2000 the U.S. Congress determined that an incentive should be created to encourage immigrants to report crimes to the police without fear. In that year, Congress enacted the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act which created a path to legalization called the U Visa for immigrant victims of certain crimes. To qualify for a U Visa, an immigrant must first prove that she was the victim of one of the qualifying crimes enumerated in the law. This is typically accomplished by presenting the report that was created by the police department or district attorney’s office that investigated or prosecuted the crime. Second, the immigrant must prove that she suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been the victim of the crime perpetrated against her. Third, the immigrant must have information concerning the criminal activity that took place. Fourth, the immigrant must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. This step requires that the immigrant obtain a certification directly from the law enforcement agency or district attorney’s office that investigated or prosecuted the crime which certifies the immigrant’s cooperation. Fifth, the criminal activity must have occurred in the U.S. or violated U.S. laws. Additionally, a U Visa applicant must prove that she is a person of good moral character. Indeed, an applicant who has been convicted of a crime will likely have to also apply for what is called a waiver as part of her U Visa application.
In addition to being able to apply for her own legalization, a U Visa applicant can include certain family members in her application as derivative beneficiaries. Specifically, U Visa applicants who are 21 years of age or older can include their spouses and children in their applications. Applicants who are under 21 years of age can include their spouses, children, parents and unmarried siblings under the age of 18. An immigrant who is granted a U Visa as a principal applicant or derivative beneficiary will receive lawful status and work authorization for a period of four years. However, after three years of continuous physical presence in the U.S. as a U Visa recipient, the immigrant will be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence, or a green card.
The most common qualifying U Visa crimes encountered by the attorneys of the Franco Law Group, APLC are domestic violence, felonious assault and sexual assault. However, there are 28 enumerated qualifying crimes in all, as well as the related crimes of attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the 28 listed crimes. As such, an immigrant who has been the victim of any crime should consult with a qualified immigration attorney to determine if that crime makes the immigrant eligible for the U Visa. Additionally, the U Visa application requirements do not impose a deadline based on how long ago a crime occurred. Indeed, victims of qualifying crimes that occurred and were reported before the creation of the U Visa in 2000 can also apply for the visa. Additionally, an immigrant who has been the victim of a recent crime that was not reported to the police should consult with a qualified immigration attorney to determine if the crime can be reported to law enforcement and how to go about doing so.
The Franco Law Group, APLC is happy to invite the public to our Immigration Forum being held tomorrow, Saturday, November 4, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at which the main topic of discussion will be the U Visa. The event will take place at the Maywood Center for Enriched Studies located at 5800 King Ave., Maywood, California 90270. If you would like to attend, please RSVP by contacting the event coordinator, Ms. Cynthia Alcaraz, at (323) 303-3824 or Alcaraz@FrancoLawGroup.com. We look forward to seeing you there!